Spatial learning in the cuttlefish Sepia officinalis: Preference for vertical over horizontal information

Gabriella Scata, Christelle Jozet-Alves, Celine Thomasse, Noam Josef, Nadav Shashar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The world is three-dimensional; hence, even surface-bound animals need to learn vertical spatial information. Separate encoding of vertical and horizontal spatial information seems to be the common strategy regardless of the locomotory style of animals. However, a difference seems to exist in the way freely moving species, such as fish, learn and integrate spatial information as opposed to surfacebound species, which prioritize the horizontal dimension and encode it with a higher resolution. Thus, the locomotory style of an animal may shape how spatial information is learned and prioritized. An alternative hypothesis relates the preference for vertical information to the ability to sense hydrostatic pressure, a prominent cue unique to this dimension. Cuttlefish are mostly benthic animals, but they can move freely in a volume. Therefore, they present an optimal model to examine these hypotheses. We tested whether cuttlefish could separately recall the vertical and horizontal components of a learned two-dimensional target, and whether they have a preference for vertical or horizontal information. Sepia officinalis cuttlefish were trained to select one of two visual cues set along a 45 deg diagonal. The animals were then tested with the two visual cues arranged in a horizontal, vertical or opposite 45 deg configuration. We found that cuttlefish use vertical and horizontal spatial cues separately, and that they prefer vertical information to horizontal information. We propose that, as in fish, the availability of hydrostatic pressure, combined with the ecological value of vertical movements, determines the importance of vertical information.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2928-2933
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number18
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2016


  • Cephalopods
  • Cognition
  • Spatial learning
  • Spatial perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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