Costello the octopus was napping although stuck to the glass of his tank at the Rockefeller University in New York. He snoozed quietly for half an hour, and then entered a much more active sleep stage, his skin cycling via colors and textures applied for camouflage — standard behavior for a cephalopod.
But quickly points became strange.
A minute later, Costello scuttled along the glass toward his tank’s sandy bottom, curling his arms more than his physique. Then he spun like a writhing cyclone. Lastly, Costello swooped down and clouded half of his tank with ink. As the tank’s filtration program cleared the ink, Eric Angel Ramos, a marine scientist, noticed that Costello was grasping a pipe with uncommon intensity, “looking like he was attempting to kill it,” he mentioned.
“This was not a regular octopus behavior,” mentioned Dr. Ramos, who is now at the University of Vermont. It is not clear when or if Costello woke up throughout the episode, Dr. Ramos mentioned. But afterward, Costello returned to regular, consuming and later playing with his toys.
“We have been absolutely dumbfounded,” mentioned Marcelo O. Magnasco, a biophysicist at Rockefeller. Probably Costello was possessing a nightmare, he and a group of researchers speculated. They shared this notion and other achievable explanations in a study uploaded this month to the bioRxiv internet site. It has however to be formally reviewed by other scientists.
Soon after the incident, Dr. Ramos reviewed the footage of Costello’s activity, which was recorded as portion of a behavior and cognition study (the lab was also observing a different octopus, Abbott each have been named right after the heptapod aliens in the film “Arrival.”). In total, the group located 3 much more shorter situations that appeared comparable.
To Dr. Magnasco, the behaviors exhibited in Costello’s longest spell evoked the acting out of a dream. The curling of arms more than his physique looked like a defensive posture, he mentioned. In the footage, the animal is observed probably attempting to make himself appear bigger, and then he tries an evasive maneuver — inking. When he fails to escape, it appears like Costello seeks to subdue a threat by strangling the pipe, Dr. Magnasco mentioned, adding, “This is the sequence of a fight.”
But he also acknowledged that “this is 1 isolated instance on an animal that had its personal peculiarities.”
There are other explanations for the behavior, such as a seizure or neurological troubles, which could be associated to Costello possessing lost components of two limbs just before he was caught. But Dr. Magnasco mentioned he hoped that, by reporting the incident, other scientists would watch out for the behavior, which his group observed by mere opportunity
Tamar Gutnick, a neuroethologist at the University of Naples Federico II in Italy who wasn’t portion of the study, mentioned that the researchers required to address inquiries in peer critique, like 1 about what occurred about the identical time the subsequent day. Her colleague at the identical university, Michael Kuba, a marine behavior biologist, also mentioned they required to detail Costello’s standard sleeping behavior.
The study’s researchers mentioned that they could account for such queries, as they have footage of the octopus’s complete life in the lab.
One more challenge with interpreting this octopus’s behavior, Dr. Kuba mentioned, is that Costello “was not absolutely chipper and healthy”: The animal had stomach parasites.
Dr. Kuba recommended that some of the behaviors, such as the curling of arms, may well have resulted from cramps, probably for the reason that of a challenge with Costello’s digestive program or from the parasites reaching a portion of his nervous program. Equivalent behaviors happen in captive octopuses, and they’re normally associated to anxiety or age, he mentioned. Costello died about six weeks right after the longest episode.
Nonetheless, the notion of dreaming in octopuses is compelling, Dr. Gutnick mentioned. The Rockefeller group is not the initially to propose the notion that cephalopods dream as they move via various phases of sleep. Simply because octopus physique patterning is controlled by the brain, researchers have wondered if patterns throughout sleep could be responses to dreamlike replay of events.
In their personal investigation, Dr. Kuba and Dr. Gutnick lately recorded electrical signals from an octopus’s brain. That opens the possibility that researchers could snoop on octopuses’ brain activity throughout sleep and perhaps connect behaviors and physique patterning throughout sleep with shifts of brainwaves to study processes linked to dreaming.
But that is not necessarily associated to this observation, Dr. Gutnick mentioned, adding, “You have to show that they have dreams just before you believe about nightmares.”