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Can an Octopus Have Nightmares?

By: Chloe Sun

Recently at Rockefeller University in New York, scientists were monitoring an octopus named Costello to study his sleep patterns. However, as they took a video of Costello sound asleep, glued to the wall something remarkable happened. After 30 minutes of quiet, undisturbed sleeping, he entered a more active stage of sleep. While he was sleeping his skin changed through the colors and textures used during camouflage, which is normal behavior for an octopus.

But then the octopus started doing something odd. He scurried down the glass of his tank to the sandy bottom where he started spinning like a hurricane. Once he stopped doing this, he swooped down and clouded half of his tank with ink. As the ink started to clear, Marine scientist, Eric Angle Ramos noticed Costello clinging to a pipe “looking like he was going to kill it”. Dr. Ramos stated that “this was not normal octopus behavior”.

Once Costello woke up, he was completely normal, eating and playing with his toys as usual. A team of researchers suspected that the octopus was having a nightmare. However, they also say that he may have been acting oddly because of different causes, such as a seizure, or neurological problems, as the octopus had lost 2 arms before he was caught. Additionally, scientist Michel Kuba stated that the octopus was not “chipper and healthy”, as he had stomach parasites. The scientists that reported Costello’s “nightmares” hoped that by publicizing the incident other scientists would look out for this kind of behavior. In their research, Dr. Kuba and neuroethologist Tamar Gutnick recorded electric signals from an octopus’s brain. By examining the brainwaves, the scientists hope to understand the octopus’s behavior better.

In conclusion, although octopi have “dream-like” behavior, we are still not sure whether they could have dreams as humans do. Further research will help us to solve this mystery.

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