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1 March 2008 Octopus sucker-arm coordination in grasping and manipulation
Frank W. Grasso
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In natural settings octopuses use their arms and suckers in a variety of dexterous manipulation tasks, such as extracting prey from crevices and burrows, opening bivalve shells, and arranging middens in front of den entrances. Octopuses use multiple suckers on a single surface for a power grasp that supports their locomotion or permits the animal to carry or move small objects. Similar to squids engaged in prey capture, octopuses can project an arm from their body, attach a group of distal suckers, and pull an object toward themselves by shortening the arm. I investigated octopuses' use of suckers in similar tasks under controlled, reproducible laboratory conditions. Because larger suckers can generate larger adhesion forces, I hypothesized that the larger suckers toward the base of the arm would be preferred in tasks requiring the arm to employ greater forces. Octopuses did not use the strategy found in squid tentacles: applying suckers of appropriate force generation to a surface and lifting or pulling the arm. Instead, in many cases they used a variety of arm movements in combination with different functional groups of suckers. In addition, different arms performed different roles. When animals were restricted to the use of a single arm, they preferred to use suckers in the middle positions of the arm to support this coordinated arm-sucker activity. Contrary to a view of suckers as passive agents reflexively reacting to surface contact, these results are consistent with the known neural organization of the octopus arm and also with complex sucker-arm coordination in the performance of manipulation tasks.

Frank W. Grasso "Octopus sucker-arm coordination in grasping and manipulation," American Malacological Bulletin 24(1), 13-23, (1 March 2008).
Accepted: 1 July 2007; Published: 1 March 2008

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