A squid whisperer might be about to help revolutionise experimental biology
Bret Grasse is one of the most renowned keepers and breeders of cephalopods, a group of animals that includes squid, cuttlefish and octopus, and his expert knowledge of these creatures may soon help biologists open up a whole new avenue of research.
The use of octopi in animal laboratory research raises interesting opportunities, as well as significant ethical questions. Many national animal ethics standards globally (including Australia) recognise that octopi are sentient, with complex cognitive capacity and require scientific work with them to be submitted for research ethics review by an animal ethics committee.
‘A global first’
In december, scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory introduced the world to the first “cultured octopus laboratory organism” —pygmy zebra octopus (O. chierchiae)—following successful culturing methods for O. chierchiaethat were developed at the University of Chicago’s Marine Biological Laboratory, under Grasse’s supervision.
They managed to breed the octopus through multiple generations, which they say is “a global first” and is critical for lab animals used in biological research because it “lets scientists study gene function and mutational effects from one generation to the next”.