Electrophysiological and motor responses to chemosensory stimuli in isolated cephalopod arms
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While there is behavioral and anatomical evidence that coleoid cephalopods use their arms to “taste” substances in the environment, the neurophysiology of chemosensation has been largely unexamined. The range and sensitivity of detectable chemosensory stimuli, and the processing of chemosensory information, are unknown. To begin to address these issues, we developed a technique for recording neurophysiological responses from isolated arms, allowing us to test responses to biologically relevant stimuli. We tested arms from both a pelagic species (Doryteuthis pealeii) and a benthic species (Octopus bimaculoides) by attaching a suction electrode to the axial nerve cord to record neural activity in response to chemical stimuli. Doryteuthis pealeii arms showed anecdotal responses to some stimuli but generally did not tolerate the preparation; tissue was nonviable within minutes ex vivo. Octopus bimaculoides arms were used successfully, with tissue remaining healthy and responsive for several hours. Arms responded strongly to fish skin extract, glycine, methionine, and conspecific skin extract but not to cephalopod ink or seawater controls. Motor responses were also observed in response to detected stimuli. These results suggest that chemosensory receptor cells on O. bimaculoides arms were able to detect environmentally relevant chemicals and drive local motor responses within the arm. Further exploration of potential chemical stimuli for O. bimaculoides arms, as well as investigations into the neural processing within the arm, could enhance our understanding of how this species uses its arms to explore its environment. While not successful in D. pealeii, this technique could be attempted with other cephalopod species, as comparative questions remain of interest.
Author Posting. © University of Chicago, 2020. This article is posted here by permission of University of Chicago for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Biological Bulletin 238(1), (2020): 1-11, doi:10.1086/707837.