Self-Injury in Octopuses

Discussion in 'Octopus Care' started by nanoteuthis, Nov 23, 2002.

  1. nanoteuthis

    nanoteuthis Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    Colin, I just read your excellent article and wished to discuss it. I am not a scientist, of course, but I have a personal interest in human psychology, and I believe this topic is relevant to analogous behavior in people.

    I agree, as you pointed out, that in some species self-injury and biting off of limbs may be an instinctive adaptation to prevent the spread of infection. But in octopuses, I believe even more strongly than you do that stress is the major contributing factor, and is in fact a prototype (correct word?) of the same syndrome in humans.

    Human self-mutilation and self-injury -- whether manifested as skin-cutting, skin-picking, or trichotillomania (pulling out one's hair) -- is found primarily in those who were abused (emotionally, physically, and/or sexually) or neglected as children. Studies of this "OCD Spectrum" condition have been done in the recent past, and as far as I know it has nothing to do with an instinctive attempt to rid oneself of infection, nor is it an intentional attempt to harm or kill oneself. Neither is it a form of masochism, as there is no sexual component to it. Rather, it induces a "trancelike" state, temporarily dissociating the individual from an untenable situation in his/her environment. (Due to the release of endorphins, perhaps?) It is also a form of sensory stimulation which in effect helps to reassure the neglected or abused individual of his/her very existence.

    As a layperson, I do not know if cephalopods have endorphins. Still, the fact that this self-injurious behavior occurs in octopuses who are either stressed (intentionally or unintentionally abused) or lack enrichment in their environment (intentionally or unintentionally neglected), leads me to believe that the cause is also analogous to human self-injury syndrome.

    I do not know if any research has been done in this area. I am certainly not recommending the active maltreatment of any cephalopods, but perhaps if a study were made of captive octopuses who have already been damaged in this way, it might be a step towards developing better forms of therapy (either behavioral or pharmaceutical) for humans who suffer from this syndrome.

    Any thoughts on this?

    Thanks,
    Tani
     
  2. Colin

    Colin Colossal Squid Supporter

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    Hi Tani,
    thanks for reading the article :)

    The scientific side of this is not what I do. The best way to describe what I have done all my working life is 'keeping things alive'. I have done lots of work in the rainforests and in zoos, wildlife parks etc and I have had to give all animals in my care from ants to alligators a healthy enriched environment. So my skills are observational and not backed up (unfortunetly) with studied lab work. However, i read around the subject as much as i possibly can but obviously this is normally the husbandry issues of the animal. I have not at this stage went as deep as endorphines etc in octopuses. In fact, that is not a side of cephalopods that I am interested in that much.

    With regards to the article. My second octopus was an Octopus briareus. It arrived in an overnight delivery and when i opened the box i could see straight away that it was not well. It was bunched up on its arms and swaying in the bag. Rather than the usual crammed into a corner.
    While acclimatising the octo i could easily see the parts missing from its arms and I had remembered reading about this behaviour, and started to look up autophagy on the internet.
    The information available was very scant and the jist of it was that the octopus is going to die! So much more work could be done on this subject.

    When a predator animal like a lion attacks a prey animal like a zebra, the zebra will often stop struggling and go into shock. The animal becomes relaxed and it is virtually eaten alive until it eventually dies. Is this the endorphines that is triggered in humans self mutulation?

    In closing, I think that the octopus biting its own arms is very different to ahuman's similar behaviour, but cant back that up as of yet :)

    C
     
  3. Tintenfisch

    Tintenfisch Architeuthis Staff Member Moderator

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    Re: Self-Injury in Octopuses

    Or in those with various types of clinical depression, and is (relatively) frequently undertaken as a means of controlling at least one small thing in what the inflictor feels to be an otherwise out-of-control life. (Let's hear it for camp counseling... )
    Colin, I read the article too, and it lead me to wonder about your octopus that crawled up on the aquarium lid and got 'stuck'?
     
  4. nanoteuthis

    nanoteuthis Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    Re: Self-Injury in Octopuses

    Could be. I've heard that stated as one of the main causes of anorexia in young women.

    So I suppose -- no kidding! -- the next question should be, "Do octopuses get depressed?" This is a valid query, as I've read that they may be equal to dogs and cats in intelligence (though the mechanism of this intelligence, as Colin points out, is quite different from those of mammals).

    I remember once seeing a TV nature show (not produced by PETA!) which indicated that fish have an increased endorphin level after they are caught and before they die, suggesting that they do feel pain when hooked. Octos being (I presume) more intelligent than fish, and displaying emotions so vividly with color changes, I would conclude that they can experience a feeling analogous to depression, triggering the pattern of autophagy.

    Hey Steve-O', we need your input on this!

    Tani
     
  5. Steve O'Shea

    Steve O'Shea Colossal Squid Supporter

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    My dear Tani, I find it difficult enough sorting my own emotions out without worrying about those of an octopus!!!!
     
  6. nanoteuthis

    nanoteuthis Larger Pacific Striped Octopus Supporter

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    OK then, what colors do you turn when you get depressed?

    :)
     
  7. Steve O'Shea

    Steve O'Shea Colossal Squid Supporter

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    sehkrit :rainbow:
     
  8. Colin

    Colin Colossal Squid Supporter

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    Kat,

    The octo that got 'stuck' to the cover glass was something of a mystery. Th etank it was in is very similar to how I have set up all my tanks and it was seemingly getting braver before that happened. The octo had hid constantly for the first few weeks and then started hunting more then that happened.

    It is now impossible (i hope) for an octo to do that in my tank now.

    Only one idea i have is that the bubbles from the airstone caused splashes onto the coverglass. The water evaporated and left salt behind which somehow stuck the octopus to the glass?????!!!!!!! That's my best guess???!!!

    I am very consiously trying to encourage people (nancy will vouch for this) to make their tanks as interesting as possible and to use lots of caves and pipes and shells and anything else safe to go in to keep the octos happier!

    I hope this helps future octos and their owners!

    C
     
  9. ceph

    ceph Wonderpus Staff Member Moderator

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    Re: Self-Injury in Octopuses

    The sci take on this is that the classic cause of autophagy (oh! big words! eatign of self) in octopuses is caused by stress. Budelman argues that it is caused by a pathogen and NOT by stress. I personaly believe that both stress and a pathogen can cause this behavior. FYI the pathogen problems are typically in mass culture set ups and not something most aquarists need to worry about.
     
  10. Colin

    Colin Colossal Squid Supporter

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    yep, i beleive that stress lets the pathogen take hold. A bit like being run down and getting the Cold!

    C
     

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