Next, they tested the octopuses' interest in each other again while under the influence of MDMA. When given MDMA, however, these creatures were found to get close to each other and, in some cases, even "hug" their companions. In reality, however, octopuses are known to be asocial and solitary creatures.
"That unusual physical contact between individuals appeared exploratory, not aggressive, in nature", the team wrote in the report published in Current Biology.
Humans and octopuses are separated by over 500 million years of evolution, but they share something in common: both feel good on party drugs.
The experiment took place with three connected water chambers; one empty, one with a plastic action figure under a cage and one with a female or male laboratory-bred octopus under a cage.
But lower doses - the sort a person might take - produced a profound change in behavior. Whether that demonstrates an increase in something like love or affection for each other, though, is still up for debate. Octopuses were placed in the center chamber and allowed to roam through the setup as they pleased for 30 minutes. They also stated that serotonin was an ancient neurotransmitter, whose function to regulate social behaviors may be conserved across evolution.
"It's not just quantitatively more time, but qualitative". Mainen asks. "It's totally fascinating and super-suggestive, but I am not a hundred percent convinced that this is doing the same thing in octopus and in human".
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The team then rapidly pulled back the dose, and the results were very similar to humans.
"These molecular similarities are sufficient to enable MDMA to induce prosocial behaviours in octopuses".
The design of the experiment testing the octopus' interaction with novel objects and other another octopus.
Dolen and the study's first author, Eric Edsinger, chose to study Octopus bimaculoides because it's possible to breed and study their behavior in the lab. They then returned them to the sectioned-off chambered areas in the aquarium. The results were clear, as the octopuses preferred to spend more time in the cage that contained another octopuses than it did when it was not on MDMA. One central room, one containing a male octopus, and another that held within it a toy. Prof de Wit said that would help rule out the idea that they were friendlier the second time because they'd got used to the tank, or the other octopus.
GREENFIELDBOYCE: Without the drug, octopuses acted reserved and aloof and might only reach out one of their eight arms to touch the cooped up animal.
JUDIT PUNGOR: That has absolutely no business acting like ours does, but here they show that it does.