Octopuses are masters of camouflage. Amazing shape-shifters, animals have the capability of deceiving by controlling the size of projections on their skin, they can change colour, and create textures ranging from small bumps to tall spikes. They easily change the way look and be in disguise which makes them nearly invisible. They often do it while communicating with each other or when they see a threat.
The colour-changing trait is quite unique and shared by almost all cephalopods. But in octopuses, this skill is just breathtaking as they have the highest resolution patterns, and the change is also quick. We have seen their camouflage when they are awake, but do they do it when they are asleep?
A study attempted to shed light on the same and suggested that octopuses can actually dream, just like the way humans do as they change colour when they are sleeping.
The study found that octopuses undergo the same process of skin-change patterns when they are sleeping as the researchers said that the skin patterns may indicate they are capable of something similar to dreaming.
In the study published in the journal Nature, it is mentioned that the colour-changing process could be because they are practising their skin patterns to improve their waking camouflage behaviour.
Or, they are simply dreaming. It means, they could be re-living and learning from their waking experiences, which have already faced.
To carry out the study, the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) studied the brain activity and skin patterning in octopuses while they sleep. The study was done in collaboration with the University of Washington.
As quoted by media houses, Professor Sam Reiter, who is the senior author, said: “In this sense, while humans can verbally report what kind of dreams they had only once they wake, the octopuses’ skin pattern acts as a visual readout of their brain activity during sleep.”
“All animals seem to show some form of sleep, even simple animals like jellyfish and fruit flies. But for a long time, only vertebrates were known to cycle between two different sleep stages,” Reiter added, who leads the Computational Neuroethology Unit at OIST in Japan.
Researchers found that the octopuses closely resemble brain activity and skin patterning behaviour seen when awake after checking whether or not the octopuses were actually asleep, and also tested how the octopuses responded to a physical stimulus.