Vol 4, Issue 3, August 2017

Visual Shape Recognition in Crayfish as Revealed by Habituation


Chiandetti, C., & Caputi, A. (2017). Visual shape recognition in crayfish as revealed by habituation. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 4(3), 242-251. https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


To cope with the everyday challenges that they encounter in their evolutionary niche, crayfish are considered to rely mainly on chemical information or, alternatively, on tactile information, but not much on vision. Hence, research has focused on chemical communication, whereas crayfish visual abilities remain poorly understood and investigated. To fill in this gap, we tested whether crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) can distinguish between two different visual shapes matched in terms of luminance. To this aim, we measured both the habituation response to a repeated presentation of a given shape, a downright Y, and the response recovery when a novel shape was presented. The novel shape could be either a Möbius or the same Y-shape but upright rotated. Our results demonstrate that, after habituation to the downright Y, crayfish showed a significantly higher response recovery to the Möbius as compared to the upright rotated Y. Hence, besides relying on chemo-haptic information, we found that crayfish can use sight alone to discriminate between different abstract geometrical shapes when macroscopically different. Failure to discriminate between the downright Y and its inversion or a generalization from the presence of a shape with three points creating a simple category, are both likely parsimonious explanations that should be investigated systematically in further studies. A future challenge will be understanding whether crayfish are capable of generalized shape recognition.