Cuttlefish Toys

Discussion in 'Cuttlefish Care' started by SuzeAustralia, Dec 22, 2007.

  1. SuzeAustralia

    SuzeAustralia Cuttlefish Supporter

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    Hi,

    Does anyone give their cuttles toys? I am looking at starting some Cuttlefish Enrichment here at Melbourne Aquarium and would like any ideas or photos. I have heard they like sparkly things, rattles, plastic keys....
     
  2. gjbarord

    gjbarord Sepia elegans Staff Member Moderator

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    Live food would be your best option, as it can also add nutritional value to the animal's diet. Simply stating that cuttlefish like certain toys should not justify their common use, until quantitatively proven. A cuttlefish that investigates foreign objects in its tank may just be doing that; it does not mean that the cuttlefish "likes" those things.

    What is your goal of "enrichment"? --both with the cuttlefish and octopus

    Greg
     
  3. Colin

    Colin Colossal Squid Supporter

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    Good thing about cuttlefish is that they can normally be kept in groups, unlike most octopuses and helps as a form of enrichment too.

    personally I never found that cuttlefish would explore a new object much past them seeing if its edible...
     
  4. shipposhack

    shipposhack Haliphron Atlanticus Registered

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    Robyn had success with Nautilus enrichment, certainly cuttlefish are smarter than them :).
     
  5. monty

    monty Colossal Squid Staff Member Supporter

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    I have unfounded suspicions that cuttlefish and squid, being more visual hunters, would be more enriched by visual rather than tactile stimulation, but it's hard to say, even for more "well understood" animals, what is "enriching." I've never been clear if cats are really "enriched" by strings, laserpointers, or catnip, exactly... a lot of people do seem to equate "enrichment" with "things people think are cure" or "things people associate with things that make kids happy." Despite that cynicism, I seem to remember that there are studies that show that some zoo animals have depression or lethargy sorts of problems that can be addressed by enrichment.

    One of the things I wonder a lot about when reading the anecdotes around here is how much we anthropomorphise cephs we interact with... there's some evolutionary reason to believe that all mammals share some neurobiology and hormonal traits that means that assessing happiness, depression, anger, fear, comfort and such in cats, dogs, whales, pigs, rats, and so forth has some validity (although even there, there's probably a danger of humanizing them too much.) But in the case of cephalopods, there's no direct lineage or similarity in nervous systems that would make one have any reason to know how they think-- any evolutionary link goes back to something like a snail...

    People, of course, are very good (and often unconscious) about using their human empathy social skills to predict, assess, and judge what something is thinking (I bet most of us even do that with our computers... my computers tend to be sadistic and enjoy torturing me.) But even correcting for that, I wonder if the observations of cephalopods showing behaviors like moping, or anticipating, or anger, or excitement, or play show that these are emergent behaviors of any intelligent animal, or any intelligent animal based on the metazoan body plan and physiology, since they appear to have evolved similarly in a separate lineage.

    Unfortunately, I don't have any better suggestions for measuring enrichment, but it does seem like, at least in many anecdotes, people can learn to read ceph body language and behavior in a way that is connected with their demonstrated active choices: Carol's octos seem to actively prefer to manipulate the green lego, and some octos actively avoid or hide in the presence of light, or camera flashes, or humans, or fish. And it seems like there are examples of octos actively calling attention to themselves when they're "bored" although it's hard to prove how much that's related to their learning that the humans provide food. But there are certainly a lot of anecdotes about cephs developing habitual behaviors that don't seem to be directly related to feeding... I can think of a few reports of divers interacting with cephs in the wild that suggest curiosity and socialized behavior more than just feeding-related attitudes, although it's always hard to tell for sure if the base curiosity is driven by the "can I eat it?" and "can I mate with it?" questions (although some human psychologists might argue that that's all there is to human behavior, as well.)
     
  6. SuzeAustralia

    SuzeAustralia Cuttlefish Supporter

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    Enrichment is a means to achieving a certain outcome or goal, your goal won't be to "enrich" the animal, as that is not really able to be measured. Enrichment goals will be more specific such as "the goal of this enrichment is to increase swimming time in penguins and in turn reduce occurence of 'Bumblefoot'". Your enrichment goals can be beneficial to the animal (for example, to reduce destructive stereotypic behaviours in birds such as plucking out feathers) or also to benefit the caretakers and make caring for the animals easier (for example, to get the animal used to being handled so it can be weighed without stress/injury to the keeper and the animal). You may not know if cats are being 'enriched' by string or laser pointers, but you could measure and determine if it increases their activity or decreases obesity or do behavioural observations to see if it reduces destructive behaviours such as scratching your lounge!

    Enrichment can mean many things, which you have mentioned, such as live food, social structure, exhbit design, operant conditioning and training, as well as enrichment items.

    Greg, I probably shouldn't have written items they would 'like' as my goal isn't for the cuttlefish to 'like' the enrichment items but as you said, for them to investigate novel items in their exhibit, to increase their activity, to increase the challenge and time spent aquiring food and for their exhibit to change and become more complex. To give them more stimulation, so they aren't just sitting under the same rock in an unchanging environment each day. Being in a large, hard to access tank, it's not possible to change around their exhibit in a major way very often, so I think adding items into the tank may be a good way to make their envirnment more complex. I'm going to try live food as well.

    Monty, Good point that enrichment often means things that are cute, or associated with making children happy....Maybe I should try shells, real seaweed and other items that are encountered in the wild for them to investigate instead of colourful toys...

    You said that humans are quite good at using their human empathy social skills to predict, assess, and judge what something is thinking. We have also been quite good at dismissing the capabilities of animals to make ourselves feel better, "It's ok to keep a goldfish in this featureless, tiny bowl, as it only has a 5 second memory."
     
  7. monty

    monty Colossal Squid Staff Member Supporter

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    We're not always so great at that with our own species, either:

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2005-05-08-babies-pain_x.htm

    I think as a species we're disturbingly prone to rationalizations and delusions about what impact our actions have on creatures, or even people, that don't give us clear feedback. Of course, that doesn't mean it's a bad idea to try...
     
  8. SuzeAustralia

    SuzeAustralia Cuttlefish Supporter

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    Very interesting article!
     
  9. cuttlegirl

    cuttlegirl Colossal Squid Supporter Registered

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    I would try seaweed, even plastic seaweed, my S. bandensis preferred to hang out in seaweed when they were small.
     
  10. Thales

    Thales Colossal Squid Staff Member Moderator

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    I have never noticed them appear interested in any 'enrichment' toys. They like to find nooks to perch in/on - I have used real macro algae, plastic plants and rubber corals.
     
  11. Paradox

    Paradox Haliphron Atlanticus Supporter

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    Ive never seen any of my cuttles 'play' with something.

    They seem to always be attracted to something moving in the tank, but after inspecting it and realising its not food, they will ignore it. My previous batches of Bandensis seemed pretty active in which they would interact with each other. Solo cuttlefish seem to be much less active from my current observations.

    From my limited experiences with officinalis, they seem much more social and often interact with the people.
     

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