Ageing cuttlefish can remember the details of last week’s dinner

Cuttlefish can remember what, where, and when specific things happened – right up to their last few days of life, researchers have found.  The results, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, are the first evidence of an animal whose memory of specific events does not deteriorate with age.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and the University of Caen, conducted memory tests on 24 common cuttlefish, Sepia officinalis. Half of these were 10-12 months old – not-quite adult, and the other half were in old age at 22-24 months – equivalent to humans in their 90s.

Fellow of Darwin College, Dr Alex Schnell, who is the first author of the paper, said: “The old cuttlefish were just as good as the younger ones in the memory task.  Cuttlefish can remember what they ate, where and when, and use this to guide their feeding decisions in the future. What’s surprising is that they don’t lose this ability with age, despite showing other signs of ageing like loss of muscle function and appetite.”

Alex Schnell is a Royal Society Newton International Fellow in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology, and has been a Research Fellow at Darwin College since 2018.