How octopuses “touch-taste” meals with their suckers

“But the strange thing is, as you get closer to them you realize that you’re very similar in a lot of ways.”

One of those ways the octopuses are both familiar and foreign is that when they wrap their long arms around prey or another object, they are both touching it (familiar) and tasting it (not so familiar).

Scientists are now seeing how octopuses use their “touch-taste” sense, activating sensory receptors on their suckers dotting the length of their eight arms, according to a new study published in the journal Cell.

The study provides new insight into how the creatures use their long flexible tentacles to interpret both danger and delight in the waters around them.

“They’re always exploring their environment. They’re just a big muscle practically,” said Nick Bellono, an assistant professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University, and the study’s lead author.

The incredible tale of a man who formed an unlikely bond with an octopus

The research followed on earlier scientific work on octopuses, in which other researchers had observed their suck cells under a microscope and seen sensory cells comparable to those found in the nose or on the tongue of a terrestrial mammal. The taste-by-touch ability could have evolved in octopuses to suit a range of possible activities.

“Maybe it’s using taste by touch for exploration,” Bellono said.

Octopus suckers have tasting cells

To find out how octopuses taste their food and their surroundings, the team studied two female California two-spot octopuses, which had been caught in the wild. In their lab, they kept the creatures in separate tanks (since octopuses are solitary animals), supporting them on a daily diet of fiddler crabs.

That species averages about 18 inches in length and live in the Pacific Ocean along the coast of northern California southward to Mexico, according to California Sea Grant, a collaboration of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the State of California and universities. The two-spot octopus eats smaller crustaceans and mollusks and its natural predators are sea lions, harbor seals, moray eels and humans.

Bellono and his team determined that these octopuses’ suckers possessed sensory cells. When housed in the sea water tank, the octopuses would extend their tentacles to grab objects through a hole in the tank wall. When they found prey, such as a fiddler crab, they wrapped their arms around it and brought it in closer.

Scientists put 3D glasses on cuttlefish and showed them film clips. The results were surprising

If they grasped an inanimate object, they let go of it and continued searching their environs with sweeping motions of their arms.

The researchers extracted and isolated groups of their sucker cells, without hurting the animals, to see the behavior of proteins the cells produced. They performed experiments to see how the proteins from the chemoreceptor cell reacted to extracts of cells from octopus prey.

“They responded in a very stereotypic manner,” Bellono said. “Those proteins respond to those stimuli in the same way as a sensory cell.”

Tasting in the sea

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Man Utd to provide 5,000 free school meals in October holidays

(Reuters) – Manchester United said on Monday that they will be provide 5,000 free school meals during the October half-term holidays to help forward Marcus Rashford’s campaign to end child food poverty in the United Kingdom.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football – Champions League – Group H – Paris St Germain v Manchester United – Parc des Princes, Paris, France – October 20, 2020 Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford celebrates scoring their second goal REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

Rashford has campaigned for the government to provide food vouchers during school holidays to children who normally receive free meals during term time if their parents receive welfare support.

Dozens of local organisations all over the country came forward last week to supply free school meals in response to the 22-year-old’s plea on social media.

Now, working together with the charity FareShare, meals will be prepared and packaged individually at Old Trafford by club staff before being shipped to local Manchester United Foundation partner schools.

Six local schools will receive the meals while others will be delivered to local charities.

“Many of Manchester’s children are going hungry and they are particularly vulnerable during school holidays when they cannot benefit from the meal voucher programme,” Collette Roche, Chief Operating Officer at United said.

“In parallel with the brilliant work being done individually by Marcus Rashford, we’re proud that the club continues to step in alongside FareShare, the Foundation and their partner schools to help fill this void.”

Rashford forced a government U-turn in July when he won his battle to ensure free school meals during the summer holidays. He then proposed extending the campaign for families receiving financial assistance from the government.

Parliament on Wednesday rejected a Labour Party motion to extend free school meals until Easter 2021 from the cut-off before the half-term and winter holidays, prompting the England international to launch his campaign on social media.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he fully accepted that children going hungry during school holidays was a problem during the COVID-19 pandemic but said he had not spoken to Marcus Rashford over his plans to tackle it.

Reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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UK doctors demand free meals for kids as COVID fuels hunger

LONDON (AP) — Pediatricians are urging the British government to reverse course and provide free meals for poor children during school holidays as the COVID-19 pandemic pushes more families into poverty.

Some 2,200 members of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health have written an open letter to Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson, saying they were shocked by his “refusal” to back down on the issue. The House of Commons last week rejected legislation that would have provided free meals during all school holidays from October through the Easter break.

The doctors say some 4 million children live in poverty, and a third rely on free school meals. Many parents in Britain have lost their jobs or are working reduced hours during the pandemic, making it imperative to make it possible for poor children over the holidays get at least one nutritious meal a day, the doctors argue.

“Families who were previously managing are now struggling to make ends meet because of the impact of COVID-19,’’ the doctors wrote. “It is not good enough to send them into the holiday period hoping for the best, while knowing that many will simply go hungry.’’

Most schools in England begin a one-week holiday on Monday.


The doctors heaped praise on Marcus Rashford, a 22-year-old star soccer player for Manchester United who has used his celebrity to highlight the issue. Rashford’s campaign helped pressure Johnson’s government into providing free meals during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown earlier this year, and he has gathered more than 800,000 signatures on a petition to extend the program.

Rashford has spoken movingly about depending on free school lunches as a child and was recently honored by the queen for his dedication to the issue of child hunger.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis, who spoke for the government on Britain’s Sunday morning news programs, claimed that lawmakers were taking a broader approach. He said the government has increased welfare benefits nationwide and has provided 63 million pounds ($82 million) to local communities to help people.

“What we are looking to do is ensure that we deal with child poverty at the core, putting the structure in place that means even in school holidays, children can get access to the food that they need,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

The opposition Labour Party has warned it will bring the issue back to the House of Commons if ministers do not change course in time for Christmas.

Advocates for children have been shocked by the political stalemate. The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said she has been both horrified and disappointed by the debate.

“We’re a wealthy country, it’s 2020,” she told Sky News. “To have a debate about whether we should make sure that hungry and vulnerable children have enough to eat is something that is strikingly similar to something we’d expect to see in chapters of ‘Oliver Twist’ — a novel published in the 19th century.”

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Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak

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Advocates, restaurants call for extension of meals program

BERLIN, Vt. (AP) — Advocates for a program that uses federal coronavirus relief money to distribute free restaurant-made meals intended for people in need during the pandemic and to help those eateries stay afloat are calling for the program to be funded past mid-December.

The statewide Everyone Eats program offers restaurants financial support to cook healthy meals for the community, said Sue Minter, executive director of Capstone Community Action on Thursday.

In three months, $1.5 million has been allocated to the industry, allowing over 100 restaurants to prepare 150,000 meals distributed around the state — but the funding ends in December, she said at a press event at Central Vermont Medical Center, where 200 meals are given out weekly.


“Seven months into the pandemic hunger in Vermont is increasing,” Minter said. “And the impact of unemployment and the unfolding economic disruption is intensifying. And Vermonters are rising to the challenge together.”

One in four Vermonters now face food insecurity, compared to one in 10 before March, she said.

The pandemic has also had a dramatic impact on the state’s hospitality industry, particularly restaurants, which are now “on life support,” she said.

Cornerstone Pub & Kitchen, in Barre, provides 200 free meals each Thursday through the program, said owner Rich McSheffrey.

“I can’t stress enough the significance of it, I can’t stress enough the impact of it, and I definitely will say that if this program has any possibility of extending then it’s definitely in the best interest,” he said.

He believes ending the program in the winter is senseless, he said.

“It seems very stressful to me to think that so many people with food insecurities and so many people that are hungry are going to have a program stopped in Vermont in the winter,” he said.

In other developments related to the coronavirus on Thursday:

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UTILITY BILLS

Less than half of an $8 million COVID-19 pandemic relief program for people and small businesses behind on their utility bills has been used, and the state is encouraging those eligible to apply.

The Vermont COVID-19 Arrearage Assistance Program can help with past-due bills to keep the lights on, water flowing, and heat running as winter approaches.

“We only have six weeks left to essentially spend the full $8 million,” Riley Allen, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service told MyChamplainValley.com on Wednesday.

Allen estimates that the total amount of unpaid bills in the state is much larger than what’s been awarded so far, the station reported.

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COLLEGE CASES

St. Michael’s College in Colchester is going to all remote classes after six positive cases of the coronavirus were detected in the latest round of surveillance testing. All the cases were asymptomatic.

In a message posted Thursday on the college’s website, college President Lorraine Sterritt said that, out of an abundance of caution, the school would move to all-remote classes and all in-person activities are suspended through the weekend. Dining will be takeout-only.

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THE NUMBERS

Vermont reported 15

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