Touching allows octopuses to pre-taste their food


aquatic: An adjective that refers to water.

behavior: The way something, often a person or other organism, acts towards others, or conducts itself.

biologist: A scientist involved in the study of living things.

cell: The smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. Typically too small to see with the unaided eye, it consists of a watery fluid surrounded by a membrane or wall. Depending on their size, animals are made of anywhere from thousands to trillions of cells. Most organisms, such as yeasts, molds, bacteria and some algae, are composed of only one cell.

chemical: A substance formed from two or more atoms that unite (bond) in a fixed proportion and structure. For example, water is a chemical made when two hydrogen atoms bond to one oxygen atom. Its chemical formula is H2O. Chemical also can be an adjective to describe properties of materials that are the result of various reactions between different compounds.

compound: (often used as a synonym for chemical) A compound is a substance formed when two or more chemical elements unite (bond) in fixed proportions. For example, water is a compound made of two hydrogen atoms bonded to one oxygen atom. Its chemical symbol is H2O.

context: The setting or circumstances that help explain an event, some statement or some conclusion.

defense: (in biology) A natural protective action taken or chemical response that occurs when a species confronts predators or agents that might harm it. (adj. defensive)

diffuse: Spread out thinly over a great area; not concise or concentrated.

dissolve: To turn a solid into a liquid and disperse it into that starting liquid. (For instance, sugar or salt crystals, which are solids, will dissolve into water. Now the crystals are gone and the solution is a fully dispersed mix of the liquid form of the sugar or salt in water.)

extract: (v.) To separate one chemical (or component of something) from a complex mix. (noun) A substance, often in concentrated form, that has been removed from its natural source.

genetic: Having to do with chromosomes, DNA and the genes contained within DNA. The field of science dealing with these biological instructions is known as genetics. People who work in this field are geneticists.

insoluble: Incapable of being dissolved into a fluid or gas. Salt and sugar can dissolve in water, for example, but some other substances, including some of those with large molecules such as proteins, do not.

intelligence: The ability to collect and apply knowledge and skills.

limb: (in physiology) An arm or leg. (in botany) A large structural part of a tree that branches out from the trunk.

marine: Having to do with the ocean world or environment.

molecule: An electrically neutral group of atoms that represents the smallest possible amount of a chemical compound. Molecules can be made of single types of atoms or of different types. For example, the oxygen in the air is made of two oxygen atoms (O2), but water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom (H2O).

nerve: A long, delicate fiber that transmits signals across the body of an animal. An animal’s backbone contains many nerves, some of which control the movement of its legs or fins, and some of which convey sensations such as hot, cold or pain.

neurobiologist: Scientist who studies cells and functions of the brain and other parts of the nervous system.

octopus: (pl. octopi or octopuses) Sea mollusks with a soft, sac-shaped body and eight tentacles. Two rows of suckers along each tentacle give the animal an ability to grasp and hold onto things. Cousins of the squids, these animals have a sharp beak-like mouth and good vision.

predator: (adjective: predatory) A creature that preys on other animals for most or all of its food.

pressure: Force applied uniformly over a surface, measured as force per unit of area.

prey: (n.) Animal species eaten by others. (v.) To attack and eat another species.

protein: A compound made from one or more long chains of amino acids. Proteins are an essential part of all living organisms. They form the basis of living cells, muscle and tissues; they also do the work inside of cells. Among the better-known, stand-alone proteins are the hemoglobin (in blood) and the antibodies (also in blood) that attempt to fight infections. Medicines frequently work by latching onto proteins.

range: The full extent or distribution of something. For instance, a plant or animal’s range is the area over which it naturally exists. (in math or for measurements) The extent to which variation in values is possible. Also, the distance within which something can be reached or perceived.

receptor: (in biology) A molecule in cells that serves as a docking station for another molecule. That second molecule can turn on some special activity by the cell.

sensor: A device that picks up information on physical or chemical conditions — such as temperature, barometric pressure, salinity, humidity, pH, light intensity or radiation — and stores or broadcasts that information. Scientists and engineers often rely on sensors to inform them of conditions that may change over time or that exist far from where a researcher can measure them directly. (in biology) The structure that an organism uses to sense attributes of its environment, such as heat, winds, chemicals, moisture, trauma or an attack by predators.

taste: One of the basic properties the body uses to sense its environment, especially foods, using receptors (taste buds) on the tongue (and some other organs).

tool: An object that a person or other animal makes or obtains and then uses to carry out some purpose such as reaching food, defending itself or grooming.

unique: Something that is unlike anything else; the only one of its kind.