Until now, there was no rigorous research showing that invertebrates experience the emotional component of pain. A study published in iScience in March provides the strongest evidence yet that octopuses feel pain like mammals do, strenghthening the case for establishing welfare regulations for these animals. And this gave it a chance to be in a list of best documentaries that are nominated to win for oscar.
From The Film “My Octopus Teacher“
The above scene is from My Octopus Teacher, a film nominated for Best Documentary in this year’s Academy Awards, which will take place on April 25. Human viewers empathize with this cephalopod, whose intelligence and curiosity are apparent in the documentary.
An octopus nestles under a rock, but she’s still within reach of the shark following her scent. The shark bites down on one of her arms and rolls over again and again, twisting the limb trapped between its jaws until it detaches. The shark swims away with the arm in its mouth, spitting out sand and rocks acquired in the scuffle.
Where her arm used to be, the octopus has a stub of bright-white flesh. She retreats from the site of the encounter slowly and without her usual flair, almost crawling along the seafloor on her way back to her den.
Experience During The Gruesome Shark Attack
The experiment, says Lynne Sneddon, a fish pain researcher at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, who was not involved in the study, “shows beyond a doubt that [octopuses] are capable of experiencing pain.”
Much of what we might think of as a reaction to pain, such as pulling your hand away from a hot stove, is actually a reflex. It happens automatically, without involving the brain, in almost all animals with a nervous system.Pain is a two-part experience that occurs in the brain. The first part is awareness of a physical sensation, such as the throbbing of your burned hand. The second, more complicated part is the emotional experience associated with that sensation: realizing that your throbbing fingers and blistering skin are causing discomfort.
Aspect Of Pain Relevant To Animal Welfare
But it is difficult to measure. “I don’t think there’s any way of proving that another organism, even another human, actually, is experiencing conscious pain the way that we ourselves do,” says Terry Walters, a pain researcher at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, who gave feedback for an early draft of the study but was not directly involved. The closest we can get for other species, he says, is determining what situations and experiences they try to avoid.
The results show the cephalopods’ complex pain experiences. They associated the chamber they had once liked best with the stinging they felt the last time they were there, even though the injection occurred somewhere else. Then they compared that experience with their typical pain-free state and decided that how they usually felt was better. “That’s the sort of big cognitive leap you have to make to be able to do this particular learning experiment,” Crook says. Using all that information, the octopuses chose to go to the nonpreferred chamber. “There’s a lot of conscious processing that has to happen,” she says.