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Shy octopus on ecstasy behaves the same as human
22 September 2018, 10:59 | Melissa Porter
The findings show that despite being evolutionarily distant from invertebrate species like octopuses, humans share a common evolutionary heritage that enables serotonin to encode social behaviors, the researchers say.
"They show that MDMA increases a particular type of social behavior in octopuses - namely, social approach and investigation of male unknown octopuses", said Gillinder Bedi, a researcher at Melbourne University in Australia who was not involved with this work.
Octopuses are nearly entirely antisocial, except when they're mating, and scientists who study them have to house them separately so they don't kill or eat each other.
What's more, without the drug, any octopus that approached the stranger at all would remain very reserved, perhaps only reaching out one arm to tentatively touch the other animal's cage.
Octopuses' closest relatives are molluscs such as snails and slugs, and their brains have a host of unusual structures that evolved on a completely different trajectory from the human path. And it has the same effect on our tentacled friends of the sea, according to research that appears in Thursday's issue of Current Biology.
"After MDMA, they were essentially hugging", says Dolen, who explains that the octopuses were "really just much more relaxed in posture, and using a lot more of their body to interact with the other octopus".
Octopuses become more friendly while under the influence of ecstasy, a new report has revealed. The discovery also suggested that the octopuses had the molecular components needed to sense and potentially respond to MDMA. Dolen said, "Octopuses will suspend their antisocial behaviour for mating, for example".
Dölen received some typical lighthearted responses from people asking about the experiment: "People are like, 'Have you got any pictures of octopuses holding glow sticks?' which I kind of ignore because that wasn't really our objective". The octopus's explored the entirety of the tank before deciding to spend more time around the inanimate object. In the first chamber, they placed a toy, the second was empty, and in the third they confined one of the octopuses.
The researchers set up the experiment by dividing a salt-water tank into three chambers.
Scientists gave several female and male octopuses a bath laced with the drug.
One octopus was doing back flips, according to Dr Dolen, who said that some of the behaviours were so unusual the research team couldn't quantify them.
Researchers claim to have found preliminary evidence of an evolutionary link between the social behaviours of octopuses and humans.
"An octopus doesn't have a cortex, and doesn't have a reward circuit", Dölen said.
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