Sticky tentacles are no match for octopuses. In fact, this sea dwelling creature is pretty unique. Aside from their ability to change colors on command, open jars from the inside, and stick to just about everything; they have on hidden talent that many are probably not aware of. They don’t stick to each other or thenselves. Each of their 8 arms are fairly autonomous, and a lot of the motor control happens in the neutral circuitry of the arms themselves instead of the brain per THE WEEK.
At any given moment, not a single octopus tentacle knows what the other seven are doing – and neither does the octopus. Keeping track of eight arms seems like a difficult task anyways, right? Not only are their eight arms writhing around without having to worry about elbows, writs, or a central control system, but each is also covered in hundreds of suckers that will reflexively stick to just about everything. Which begs the question, can octopuses get tangled up in themselves? The answer to this is quite simple, no.
A new paper published today says why they don’t get caught up in their sticky tentacles. For one, the suckers don’t stick to the octopus’ own skin.
For about an hour after amputation, an octopus arm acts as though it is still attached. It moves similarly, which the suckers attempt to grasp and stick to things they touch. A team of Israeli and American scientists observed what these sticky arms would and wouldn’t grab.
In more than 30 trials, the researchers discovered that the suckers wouldn’t attach to another octopus arm, whether it came from the same octopus or a different one. They would also not attach onto a petri dish that was covered in octopus skin.
When the researchers coated petri dishes in a gel that was soaked in dissolved chemicals extracted from octopus skin, the suckers grabbed them, but with 10 to 20 times less force than they did the regular, uncoated ones.
This confirmed that some chemical in the skin hinders the attachment reflex, therefor preventing the suckers from sticking. This means that each arm keeps the others from grabbing hold of it without the octopus having to worry about the details.
The self-avoidance system, the researchers say, is a “striking addition to the list of surprises” in the octopus’ body. Therefore, sticky tentacles are no problem for octopuses.