If you’ve ever watched the animated movie, The Little Mermaid, you probably remember the catchy song “Under the Sea” sung by the ever-so snobbishly delightful Sebastian the lobster. The song is meant to convince Ariel the mermaid to stay in the ocean because it’s the most wonderful place on Earth! And while that’s a fantastical story, it may not be a fantastical version of the ocean floor. No, fish aren’t playing instruments, singing, and dancing, but this story about cuttlefish might just have you wondering what else we humans don’t know about the intelligence of creatures who call the ocean their home.
Cuttlefish Have Great Memories
It’s widely known that octopuses are incredibly intelligent creatures, but did you know that cuttlefish aren’t too shabby either? All joking aside, a recent research study showed that cuttlefish have great memories. Much like humans, cuttlefish can remember when, where, and what they ate for their last meal. But as humans age, this kind of episodic memory tends to fade. For cuttlefish, it seems, episodic memory grows stronger.
How did researchers conduct this study without actually asking cuttlefish what they ate during their last meal?
By conducting carefully controlled experiments. First, twelve- and twenty-four-month-old cuttlefish were trained to remember where and when their meals were served. Meals were offered at specific times and specific locations in their tank for several weeks. Then, they were given two different types of meals in two different parts of the tank—one not so tasty and the other their meal of choice. Each of these meals were given at specific times. After a few weeks, the cuttlefish had learned to wait for their preferred meals, rather than take one just because it was offered. While the ability to wait for a more desirable meal seems like a no-brainer, it’s actually a complex neurological action that requires a specific part of the human brain to make it happen. That’s why the result of this study was so significant. It proved that cuttlefish (like their cousin, the octopus) are quite smart and can remember things like their last favorite meal! Awesome, right?