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The Cuttlefish’s robust memory system is a game changer Age

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The Cuttlefish's robust memory system is a game changer
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The cephalopod is unique in that it doesn’t show age-related decline when recalling particular events.

Can you remember what you had for dinner last weekend? This ability is called episodic memory. As we age, our recall of the times and places of particular events decreases. According to new research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Cuttlefish may also exhibit episodic memory. However, unlike humans, this ability doesn’t diminish with age.

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Alexandra Schnell, coauthor of the University of Cambridge and who carried out the experiment at Woods Hole’s Marine Biological Laboratory, Massachusetts, said that cuttlefish are able to remember where they ate and how long ago. It’s amazing that this ability doesn’t diminish with age, even though they show other signs such as loss of appetite and muscle function.

We reported earlier this year on Schnell’s and others’ study that showed cuttlefish could delay gratification. Specifically, they could pass a cephalopod version of the famous Stanford marshmallow test: waiting a bit for their preferred prey rather than settling for a less desirable prey. A subsequent learning test showed that Cuttlefish performed well, marking the first instance of a connection between intelligence and self-control in non-mammalian animals.

The cuttlefish was given two options for prey: it could choose either to immediately eat raw kingprawn or wait to get its preferred live grass shrimp. The cuttlefish could view both the options and was able to choose whether it wanted the grass shrimp or the raw king prawn.

To assess the cognitive abilities of cuttlefish, the team put them through a learning task. Researchers reversed the process so the reward associated with the exact prey reward could be seen by the cephalopods. The researchers found that cuttlefish could wait up to 50-130 seconds for the best reward, which is comparable to larger-sized vertebrates like chimpanzees and crows.

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