UC Berkeley doctoral student conducts research in Cebu

     USC Marine Research Station in Maribago, Mactan Island, Cebu is hosting a doctoral student from the Department of Integrative Biology, University of California at Berkeley, from March 27 to April 15, 2013.

     Ms. Jean Alupay, who is presently doing a chapter of her dissertation in Cebu, first visited USC Marine Research Station in July 2011 to determine if her study animal, the octopus locally known as“tamala or tama”, is found in Mactan Island.  Luckily, Ms. Alupay discovered a great abundance of her species, Abdopus aculeatus, being caught by fishermen in the intertidal, providing a promising source of the animal for her dissertation research.

     Ms. Alupay is studying a particular defense behavior exhibited by her species of octopus. The octopus is able to detach its arms from its body as a means of escaping danger both from predators and competitors. This defense mechanism is otherwise known as “autotomy”, and is commonly associated with lizards that lose their tail or sea stars that lose their arms. As costly as this behavior may seem, the octopus is able to regenerate fully functional arms.

     During her two-week research engagement in Cebu Ms. Alupay is also quantifying how frequently octopuses are found with missing or regenerating arms, determining their population density at multiple sites, and identifying predation pressures. She is utilizing the facilities of the USC Marine Research Station while observing the behavior of potential predators to autotomized octopus arms which can move and stick to surfaces even hours after the arms have been detached. By understanding the ecological factors surrounding this species, she intends to improve the context and background to support other aspects of her dissertation.

     Ms. Alupay will be returning to UC Berkeley with live octopus specimens to further study the regeneration process, the cost of losing arms to locomotion, and the mechanism by which these flexible animals can autotomize their arms. Her dissertation research grant has been made possible through UC Berkeley’s Department of Integrative Biology and the Graduate Division as well as the support and able assistance of her adviser, Roy Caldwell, and the faculty, staff, and students at the USC Marine Research Station, especially Dr. Filipina Sotto, Head of  USC Marine Biology Section.

Source: Marine Research Station. 10 April 2013

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