Arm coordination in octopus crawling involves unique motor control strategies

Curr Biol. 2015 May 4;25(9):1195-200. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.02.064. Epub 2015 Apr 16.

Abstract

To cope with the exceptional computational complexity that is involved in the control of its hyper-redundant arms [1], the octopus has adopted unique motor control strategies in which the central brain activates rather autonomous motor programs in the elaborated peripheral nervous system of the arms [2, 3]. How octopuses coordinate their eight long and flexible arms in locomotion is still unknown. Here, we present the first detailed kinematic analysis of octopus arm coordination in crawling. The results are surprising in several respects: (1) despite its bilaterally symmetrical body, the octopus can crawl in any direction relative to its body orientation; (2) body and crawling orientation are monotonically and independently controlled; and (3) contrasting known animal locomotion, octopus crawling lacks any apparent rhythmical patterns in limb coordination, suggesting a unique non-rhythmical output of the octopus central controller. We show that this uncommon maneuverability is derived from the radial symmetry of the arms around the body and the simple pushing-by-elongation mechanism by which the arms create the crawling thrust. These two together enable a mechanism whereby the central controller chooses in a moment-to-moment fashion which arms to recruit for pushing the body in an instantaneous direction. Our findings suggest that the soft molluscan body has affected in an embodied way [4, 5] the emergence of the adaptive motor behavior of the octopus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Extremities / physiology*
  • Locomotion*
  • Motor Activity
  • Octopodiformes / physiology*