Octopus arm movements provide an extreme example of controlled movements of a flexible arm with virtually unlimited degrees of freedom. This study aims to identify general principles in the organization of these movements. Video records of the movements ofOctopus vulgaris performing the task of reaching toward a target were studied. The octopus extends its arm toward the target by a wave-like propagation of a bend that travels from the base of the arm toward the tip. Similar bend propagation is seen in other octopus arm movements, such as locomotion and searching. The kinematics (position and velocity) of the midpoint of the bend in three-dimensional space were extracted using the direct linear transformation algorithm. This showed that the bend tends to move within a single linear plane in a simple, slightly curved path connecting the center of the animal’s body with the target location. Approximately 70% of the reaching movements demonstrated a stereotyped tangential velocity profile. An invariant profile was observed when movements were normalized for velocity and distance. Two arms, extended together in the same behavioral context, demonstrated identical velocity profiles. The stereotyped features of the movements were also observed in spontaneous arm extensions (not toward an external target). The simple and stereotypic appearance of the bend trajectory suggests that the position of the bend in space and time is the controlled variable. We propose that this strategy reduces the immense redundancy of the octopus arm movements and hence simplifies motor control.
Organization of octopus arm movement: A model system for studying the control of flexible arm
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