January 17, 2021

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Lesson of the Day: ‘Cuttlefish Took Something Like a Marshmallow Test. Many Passed.’

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Students in U.S. high schools can get free digital access to The New York Times until Sept. 1, 2021.

Featured Article: “Cuttlefish Took Something Like a Marshmallow Test. Many Passed.” by Veronique Greenwood

Cuttlefish are known for their advanced cognition: a power to camouflage with precision, their depth perception and a remarkable ability to strike their prey. A study published this month revealed that cuttlefish are also able to perform complicated calculations about what to eat.

In this lesson, you will learn about the process that scientists undertook to better understand the choices that cuttlefish make about their food. Then, you will design your own cuttlefish experiment.

Choose one carnivorous animal and make a list of five facts about how the animal hunts and eats its prey. You can choose any carnivore, but possibilities include: panthers, sharks, bears, wolves, dolphins, hyenas and snakes. You may need to do some research, but don’t spend any longer than five minutes.

In the featured article, you will learn about a discovery about how cuttlefish, relatives of squids and octopuses, choose what they eat and hunt.

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

1. What are some of the characteristics of cuttlefish that make them unique?

2. What is one way that researchers have been able to identify that cuttlefish can think ahead?

3. What previous discovery did Chuan-Chin Chiao and Tzu-Hsin Kuo, two biologists at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan, make regarding cuttlefish hunting?

4. In your own words, describe the new experiments that Dr. Chiao and Dr. Kuo created to study cuttlefish. How did they set up the two tests and what did the results reveal?

5. Why is this new research significant? What is one question that you now have about cuttlefish?

The New York Times has written several other articles about cuttlefish over the years. Choose one of the articles below to learn more about these sea creatures.

As you read, write down three new facts you learn about cuttlefish and one new question that you have about them.

The featured article looked closely at a two-part experiment created by researchers at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan. Now, design your own experiment to answer a question that you have about cuttlefish behavior and cognition.

Start by developing your question. For example, it could be related to their eating and hunting patterns; their social or antisocial behaviors; their shelter selection and use; or their mating habits. Then, create a hypothesis: Based on your prior knowledge or research, how can your question be answered or explained?

Next, using the experiment design discussed in the article as inspiration, consider what materials, setup and procedure you would need to create to conduct the experiment. If you’re feeling stuck, you can look at the other Times articles about cuttlefish mentioned above to see how they set up their experiments.

Finally, lay out your cuttlefish experiment design using this laboratory experiment template.

About Lesson of the Day

Find all our Lessons of the Day in this column.
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