Animal Cognition

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 27–30 | Cite as

Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis: Cephalopoda) hunting behavior and associative learning

  • Patricia D. Cole
  • Shelley A. AdamoEmail author
Original Article


Because most learning studies in cephalopods have been performed on octopods, it remains unclear whether such abilities are specific to octopus, or whether they correlate with having a larger and more centrally organized brain. To investigate associative learning in a different cephalopod, six sexually mature cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) participated in a counterbalanced, within-subjects, appetitive, classical conditioning procedure. Two plastic spheres (conditioned stimuli, CSs), differing in brightness, were presented sequentially. Presentation of the CS+ was followed 5 s later by a live feeder fish (unconditioned stimulus, US). Cuttlefish began to attack the CS+ with the same type of food-acquisition seizures used to capture the feeder fish. After seven blocks of training (42 presentations of each CS) the difference in seizure probability between CS+ and CS− trials more than doubled; and was found to be significantly higher in late versus early blocks. These results indicate that cuttlefish exhibit autoshaping under some conditions. The possible ecological significance of this type of learning is briefly discussed.


Mollusca Invertebrate Foraging Autoshaping Associative conditioning 



This research was funded by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to S.A. Adamo. This study was approved by the Dalhousie University Animal Care Committee.

Supplementary material

S1 This video shows a CS- trial followed by a CS+ trial from block 7 for Cuttlefish #7. 7 During the CS- trial the cuttlefish initially moves away, eventually orients to, but does 8 not approach the CS. During the CS+ trial, the cuttlefish’s first strike is directed towards 9 the CS, and the second strike captures the fish (US).

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyDalhousie University HalifaxNova ScotiaCanada

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