Observational learning does not explain improvement in predation tactics by cuttlefish (Mollusca: Cephalopoda). Academic Article uri icon


  • When first presented with live crab prey, naive cuttlefish typically approached from the front and were often pinched. In subsequent trials, this initial group rapidly improved their prey capture techniques and attacked from above or behind the crab. Naive cuttlefish that first watched experienced conspecifics prey on crabs captured crabs without getting pinched. However, naive cuttlefish that first watched non-attacking cuttlefish in the same tank with crabs also avoided pinches, as did naive cuttlefish that were exposed only to crab odor. All three experimental groups were as successful on their first predation as the initial group was on its second predation, but the attack techniques they used were not as well developed as those of the initial group on their fifth trial. Results suggest that odor may serve as a primer for cuttlefish predatory attack behavior, perhaps by enhancing food arousal and improving attention. Practice was required for further improvements in predation techniques. We found no evidence that cuttlefish improved their predation techniques by observing conspecifics.

publication date

  • December 7, 2000