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Cephalopods, especially octopuses, offer a different model for the development of complex cognitive operations. They are phylogenetically distant from the mammals and birds that we normally think of as ‘intelligent’ and without the pervasive social interactions and long lives that we associate with this capacity. Additionally, they have a distributed nervous system — central brain, peripheral coordination of arm actions and a completely separate skin appearance system based on muscle-controlled chromatophores. Recent research has begun to show how these apparently separate systems are coordinated. Learning and cognition are used toward prey, in antipredator actions and in courtship. These examples show how they attain complex cognition in Emery & Clayton’s (2004) categories of flexibility, causal reasoning, imagination and prospection.


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