Secrets of the Octopus

July 27, 2014 | The University

Octopus Holding the Cut End of an Amputated Arm in Its Mouth Only by the Beak, or “Spaghetti Holding” (from “Current Biology”)

Octopus Holding the Cut End of an Amputated Arm in Its Mouth Only by the Beak, or “Spaghetti Holding” (from “Current Biology”)

Have you ever wondered why the mighty eight-armed octopus never gets tangled up in knots? In a surprising discovery that revealed some of the secrets of the octopus, Brooklyn College psychology professor Frank W. Grasso and researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found that a chemical repellent in octopus skin prevents the arms from grabbing each other.

Grasso and the Israeli research team conducted several experiments with isolated octopus arms and whole octopuses to study the role the central brain plays in how octopuses grasp, attach and hold objects. The scientists found the suckers on isolated arms would not stick to another octopus arm but they did grab other objects. Grasso’s findings were published in the June 2014 issue of Current Biology.

Professor Grasso with Brooklyn College students.

Professor Grasso with Brooklyn College students.

Listen to Professor Grasso on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Read about Prof. Grasso’s work inside the Biometric and Cognitive Robotics Lab at Brooklyn College.

Read Prof. Grasso’s research in Current Biology.