Some of the cells they found only sensed touch and responded to pressure. Another group of cells, called chemoreceptors, instead detected chemicals, such as those that give the fish flavor.
A series of genetic experiments have revealed that the surface of these taste-regulating cells is covered with different types of proteins tailored to each chemical trigger. By mixing and matching these proteins, cells develop unique flavoring profiles that allow octopus suckers to identify subtle stages of flavor and then shoot sensations to other parts of the nervous system.
Dr. Tabin seems to have “a very detailed taste map of what they are touching”. “They don’t even have to see it. They are reacting to attractive and disgusting compounds.”
In water, some chemicals can move away from their source, so some creatures can smell prey from a distance. But for chemicals that don’t easily travel through the sea, the touch taste strategy is convenient, Dr Bellono said.
It is discerning, but the octopus’s taste buds did not make this animal terribly picky. They eat fish, crabs, snails, and other octopuses. “Everything they can actually find,” Dr. said van Giesen. “They are greedy.”
Researchers were unable to investigate all of the chemically detectable proteins that influence octopus tactile tactics. However, they found that some cells in the suckers of animals close when exposed to octopus ink, which is sometimes emitted as a “warning signal,” Dr. van Giesen said. “Maybe there may be information filtering that is important to animals in certain situations,” she said.