Chemotactile social recognition in the blue-ringed octopus, Hapalochlaena maculosa

Morse, Peter, and Huffard, Christine (2022) Chemotactile social recognition in the blue-ringed octopus, Hapalochlaena maculosa. Marine Biology, 169 (8). 99.

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Social recognition is the ability of individuals in a species to differentiate among conspecifics based on their identity or biologically meaningful demographic. Despite evidence that they have sophisticated brains, complex behavioural repertoires, and acute sensory processing, surprisingly little is known about mechanisms aiding social recognition in cephalopods. This class's unique chemotactile sense by the ventral arm surfaces gathers considerable information used in predator-prey interactions. Does it also help mediate social interactions? This study utilised 366 h of focal animal observations to assess the likelihood of Hapalochlaena maculosa, a nocturnal species, to retreat after physically contacting conspecifics based on their sex, familiarity and mating history. Females retreated from both sexes equally, while males were more likely to retreat after contacting female conspecifics. Most conspicuously, males were significantly more likely to retreat after contacting females with which they had already mated. These findings provide the first evidence for chemotactile sex discrimination and mate recognition within cephalopods, and supplement previous observations that male H. maculosa do not appear to detect the sex of conspecifics from a distance. The decision to retreat from or stay with an individual based on their sex or mating history, only after physical contact, emphasises the importance of chemotactile behaviour in octopus sensory ecology and behaviour. Furthermore, male octopuses have limited spermatophore production, and the use of chemotactile social recognition observed here may highlight the importance of reproduction, specifically sperm allocation and avoidance of sexual cannibalism, on the evolution of sensory ecology and cognition within this lineage.

Item ID: 75890
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-1793
Keywords: Behaviour, Cephalopod, Chemosensory, Cognition, Sensory ecology, Sperm competition
Copyright Information: Open Access. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2022 07:45
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 Behavioural ecology @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 50%
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