The octopus arm is extremely flexible. Thanks to this flexibility--the arm is said to possess a virtually infinite number of "degrees of freedom"--the octopus is able to generate a vast repertoire of movements that is unmatched by the human arm. Nonetheless, despite the huge evolutionary gap and morphological differences between the octopus and vertebrates, the octopus arm acts much like a three-jointed vertebrate limb when the octopus performs precise point-to-point movements. Researchers have now illuminated how octopus arms are able to form joint-like structures, and how the movements of these joints are controlled.
The flexible arm of the octopus has virtually an infinite number of degrees of freedom, allowing a repertoire of movements unmatched by even the human arm.
The new findings, which appear in the April 18th issue of Current Biology, are reported by Tamar Flash of the Weizmann Institute of Science, Binyamin Hochner and German Sumbre of Hebrew University, and Graziano Fiorito of the Stazione Zoologica di Napoli.
The extreme motility of the octopus arm demands a highly complex motor control system. Past work from Dr. Hochner’s group showed that when retrieving food to its mouth, the octopus actually shapes its arm into a quasi-articulated structure by forming three bends that act like skeletal joints. This puts an artificial constraint of sorts on the arm’s movement and simplifies the otherwise complex control of movement that would be needed for the arm to fetch food from a distant point to the octopus’s mouth.
In the new work, the researchers sought to identify how the octopus manages to transform its extremely flexible arm into a structure that acts like a jointed appendage. By recording muscle activity as the arm creates the joint-like bends, the researchers found that the arm generates two waves of muscle contraction that propagate toward each other, setting the second, or medial, joint at their collision point. This is a remarkably simple mechanism for adjusting the length of the arm segments according to where the object is grasped along the arm. The arm also forms a proximal joint near where the arm meets the body, and a distal joint near the suckers that have grasped the food. The medial joint typically exhibits the most movement during food retrieval.
The authors also found evidence that, like certain types of human arm movements, octopus fetching movements are controlled in terms of joint angles, rather than by a system that relies on the brain’s coordinate-based map of external space.
The presence of similar structural features and control strategies in articulated limbs (for example, jointed vertebrate arms) and flexible octopus arms suggests that these qualities have evolved convergently in octopuses and in vertebrates, and it also suggests that an articulated limb--controlled at the level of joints--is the optimal solution to the challenge of achieving precise point-to-point movements by a limb.
Heidi Hardman | EurekAlert!
Building a brain, cell by cell: Researchers make a mini neuron network (of two)
23.05.2018 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo
Research reveals how order first appears in liquid crystals
23.05.2018 | Brown University
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
A team led by Austrian experimental physicist Rainer Blatt has succeeded in characterizing the quantum entanglement of two spatially separated atoms by observing their light emission. This fundamental demonstration could lead to the development of highly sensitive optical gradiometers for the precise measurement of the gravitational field or the earth's magnetic field.
The age of quantum technology has long been heralded. Decades of research into the quantum world have led to the development of methods that make it possible...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Life Sciences
23.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy