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Cuttlefish can delay gratification, suggesting smarts like chimpanzees and crows

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Apparently, cuttlefishes are smart like octopuses:

Schnell and her colleagues designed an experiment to test whether cuttlefish could plan ahead, specifically, by resisting the temptation of a tasty treat in exchange for an even tastier one. In a study published March 3 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the team found that the invertebrates delayed gratification for up to two minutes or more, a feat on par with chimpanzees and crows. Schnell speaks with The Scientist about what cuttlefish self-control suggests about cephalopod cognition and the evolution of human intelligence…

TS: Do cuttlefish have different personalities or do they behave differently?

AS: Yes, they show a lot of character, and each individual has different idiosyncrasies. Within my subjects, I had ones that were a lot more patient than others. Some individuals were able to resist temptation for nearly double the length [of time compared with] other individuals. We also had differences in their eagerness to participate in the experiment. I started with a sample size of eight, and then two individuals decided they did not want to participate in this experiment halfway through. They wouldn’t settle at the bottom of the aquarium tank [for the experiment to start] and refused any type of food. So you do see a lot of differences between the subjects.

Asher Jones, “Cuttlefish Delay Gratification, a Sign of Smarts” at The Scientist

At Mind Matters News we looked into evidence that a variety of life forms have personalities. Octopuses do, so why not cuttlefish?

Anyway, cuttlefish intelligence turns out to be a demonstration of convergent evolution:

All of those theories don’t apply to cuttlefish because they haven’t experienced the same pressures. Finding self-control in cuttlefish is a really extreme example of convergent evolution because they have really different evolutionary histories than the more commonly studied long-lived social species. They’re short-lived, they’re not social, and they don’t build tools. We speculate that cuttlefish might have evolved self-control to fine-tune their foraging. Cuttlefish are camouflaged for the majority of their time, they remain motionless to avoid detection from predators. These really long periods of camouflage are broken when the animal needs to eat, so perhaps they evolved self-control to optimize these hunting excursions because waiting for preferred food might speed up their hunting excursions and also limit their exposure to predators.

Asher Jones, “Cuttlefish Delay Gratification, a Sign of Smarts” at The Scientist

Maybe the big question isn’t why are cuttlefish so smart but why are chimpanzees so dumb?

See also: Is the octopus a “second genesis” of intelligence?

and

Evolution appears to converge on goals—but in Darwinian terms, is that possible?

The paper is open access.

Note: Cuttlefish and squid have ten tentacles; octopuses have only eight.

2 Replies to “Cuttlefish can delay gratification, suggesting smarts like chimpanzees and crows

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Delayed gratification isn’t necessarily a sign of the highest intelligence. It requires some memory and some logic, but most predators know how to create a “trap” situation and wait for the reward. Any critter with some memory and logic will learn to wait.

    Your question about chimpanzees is powerful. Maybe chimps are not the penultimate step in the trite “up from fish to humans” picture. Maybe chimps are a degenerate backwater FROM humans. Genes are more often lost than gained, complexity is more often lost than gained.

  2. 2
    anthropic says:

    Humans to apes would involve a LOT of evolution, or devolution depending on how you look at it. Is there really time for that to occur, even given that it’s far easier to degenerate than generate?

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