When most people think of squids and octopuses, they might envision the two species being quite similar. Afterall, they both live in the ocean and have a similar look. They’re also notably intelligent, and scientists are continuing to learn more and more about them each year.
Back in 2020, scientists made a new discovery about octopuses. In a paper titled “Molecular Basis of Chemotactile Sensation in Octopus,” researchers revealed that octopuses taste the world around them through special receptors in their suckers.
When that research first came out, scientists believed the ability to taste through sucker receptors was unique to octopuses. But a new study published in 2023 titled “Sensory specializations drive octopus and squid behaviour” shows that squid have the same ability to taste with their suckers! The way they taste, though, is different.
According to the study, the receptors on an octopus are attuned to different flavors than a squid. The two animals have taste receptors that best fit their lifestyles.
The authors wrote, “Thus, cephalopods provide notable examples of convergent and divergent evolution that can be exploited to understand the molecular basis of novelty across levels of biological organization.”
“In octopus, we found that these chemotactile receptors physically contact surfaces to determine whether the animal should eat a potential food source or reject it,” neurobiologist Ryan Hibbs of the University of California San Diego explains in a press release.
He went on to say, “Through its structure, we found that these receptors are activated by greasy molecules, including steroids similar to cholesterol. With evolutionary, biophysical, and behavioral analyses, we showed how strikingly novel structural adaptations facilitate the receptor’s transition from an ancestral role in neurotransmission to a new function in contact-dependent chemosensation of greasy environmental chemicals.”
Squids may use their suckers to taste the world around them as well, but they do so very differently. Research found that squids taste bitter flavors of foods they often reject. Scientists believe they use the receptors to determine foods that are less favorable.