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J Comp Psychol. 1999 Dec;113(4):443-9.

Sign tracking in cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis).

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas 78626, USA.


Two groups of cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) were used to demonstrate classical conditioning in this species and to determine whether the resulting approach response would be that of sign tracking or goal tracking. For cuttlefish in the paired condition, a flashing light was presented at one end of a long tank followed by food dropped into the center of the tank. For cuttlefish in the unpaired condition, food was dropped into the center of the tank either before or after the flashing-light stimulus. Paired cuttlefish oriented to the light, positioned themselves within striking distance, and occasionally attacked the light. Unpaired cuttlefish showed no reliable response to either stimulus. The results demonstrate that cuttlefish are capable of signal learning and that, under the conditions tested, cuttlefish sign tracked. This study begins a comparative analysis of learning in cuttlefish and offers a possible ecological advantage for sign-tracking behavior.

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