FY2021 Annual Report

Computational Neuroethology Unit
Assistant Professor Sam Reiter

(From left to right) Taha Soliman, Kostas Tsaridis, Tomo Mano, Yaskuo Rudisel, Kazumichi Shimizu, Paulette Garcia Andaluz, Van Dinh, Sam Reiter, Makoto Hiroi, Robert Ross. Not pictured: Aditi Pophale, Natacha Roux, Shoko Yamakawa, Keishu Asada, Saffira Yan Tjon


The Computational Neuroethology Unit seeks to uncover the principles governing animal behavior and its neural basis. To achieve this goal, the unit combines novel methods for high-resolution behavioral recording with systems neuroscience and computational approaches. The unit currently focuses on coleoid cephalopods (cuttlefish, octopus, and squid), a group of marine invertebrates that evolved uniquely large brains and complex behaviors.

1. Staff

  • Dr. Kazumichi Shimizu, Postdoc
  • Dr. Natacha Roux, JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Dr. Tomo Mano, JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Dr. Makoto Hiroi, Staff Scientist (with Stephens Unit)
  • Dr. Robert Ross, Interdisciplindary Postdoctoral Fellow (with Pigolotti Unit)
  • Dr. Taha Soliman, Laboratory Technician
  • Ms. Van Dinh, Laboratory Technician
  • Ms. Yaskuo Rudisel, Laboratory Technician
  • Mr. Keishu Asada, Fieldwork Technician
  • Ms. Shoko Yamakawa, Research Unit Administrator
  • Ms. Aditi Pophale, Graduate Student
  • Mr. Kostas Tsaridis, Graduate Student
  • Ms. Saffira Yan Tjon, Rotation Student
  • Ms.  Paulette Garcia Andaluz, Rotation Student

2. Collaborations

2.1 Squid collective behavior

  • Description: Decoding the language of social cephalopods.
  • Type of collaboration: Joint research
  • Researchers:
    • Professor Greg Stephens, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam/OIST
    • Dr. Makoto Hiroi, OIST

2.2 Cephalopod Physiology

  • Description: Analysis of neural recordings from cephalopod brains
  • Type of collaboration: Joint research
  • Researchers:
    • Dr. Leenoy Meshulam, University of Washington

2.3 Cephalopod skin as growing active matter

  • Description: Analysis of skin pattern growth and development
  • Type of collaboration: Joint research
  • Researchers:
    • Professor Simone Pigolotti, OIST
    • Dr. Robert Ross, OIST

2.4 Cephalopod camouflage in the field

  • Description: Describing natural image statistics underwater, and how cephalopods match them
  • Type of collaboration: Joint research
  • Researchers:
    • Professor Eugenio Piasini, SISSA 

2.5 Cuttlefish Camouflage Dynamics

  • Description: Describing the space of cuttlefish camouflage, and how they move in this space
  • Type of collaboration: Joint research
  • Researchers:
    • Professor Gilles Laurent, MPI for Brain Research
    • Ms. Theodosia Woo, MPI for Brain Research
    • Dr. Xitong Liang, MPI for Brain Research
    • Dr. Dominic Evans, MPI for Brain Research

2.6 Clownfish behavior

  • Description: Tracking clownfish social behavior in 4 dimensions
  • Type of collaboration: Joint research
  • Researchers:
    • Professor Vincent Laudet, OIST
    • Dr. Manon Mercader, OIST

3. Activities and Findings

This year has been one of finishing setups and expanding our species of interest. Our cephalopod husbandry system was one of the first things we ordered, but had been hit with many logistical challenges. Suppy chain related part delays, getting held up in the Suez Canal when it was blocked, pandemic related travel problems...throughout OIST admin was wonderfully supportive and flexible. And now at long last, the manufacturers Luxaqua are here and assembling the system! Here is a picture of 2 of the new racks. The bulk of the system is down at the OIST marine station, with some racks up in lab 4 for keeping a subset of animals for experiments. Over the last year we have fitted out the lab for this, with seawater pumped in from the ceiling to feed these closed loop life support systems.

We now have all 3 groups of Coleoid cephalopods kept in the marine station waiting to move into the new husbandry systems. We are currently breeding several species of local squid, which are becoming close to a model cephalopod for us.

They reach ~50 cm long as adults, which we keep in large tanks in the back of the marine station. 

Our work on squid has centered around tracking their collective behavior, where we are employing deep learning based markerless motion capture techniques.

We have also been looking into the amazing movements of several species of octopus, like this abdopus. 

These animals lay eggs in lab but the hatchlings are so small it is unclear what they eat. This has made it difficult to breed octopus in laboratory settings. Luckily we found that a local species of octopus, octopus Incella, lays larger eggs and produces hatchlings large enough to eat things like cab larvae. We have succeeded in closing the life cycle and are currently raising the second generation of these animals in our marine station. Here are some baby octopus.

This one is ambitious. 

For cuttlefish we usually interact with local fishermen who often come across eggs. This year we got some Sepia Latimanus eggs from Churami aquarium, and are raising them to study their amazing camouflage behavior. 

We have several manuscripts in preparation, so look forward to sharing our results in the coming year!


4. Publications

4.1 Journals

Nothing to report

4.2 Books and other one-time publications

Nothing to report

4.3 Oral and Poster Presentations

  1. Reiter S., Green and Blue Planet (OIST-Riken symposium). An ethological approach to studying the brain, Okinawa, Japan.
  2. Reiter S., Kinds of Minds (OIST-Riken symposium). Exploring 2-stage sleep in octopus, Okinawa, Japan.
  3. Reiter S., IIIS moonshot grant kickoff meeting keynote. Exploring 2-stage sleep in octopus, Tsukuba, Japan.
  4. Reiter S., Japanese Sleep Society Meeting. Exploring 2-stage sleep in octopus, Fukuoka, Japan.
  5. Meshulam L., Pophale A., Shimizu K., Reiter S., Why do octopuses camouflage when asleep? APS March Meeting, Chicago IL, USA.

5. Intellectual Property Rights and Other Specific Achievements

Nothing to report

6. Meetings and Events

6.1 OIST Developmental Neural Circuit Course 

  • Date: February 23 - March 3, 2021
  • Venue: online

6.2 Kinds of Minds (OIST-Riken symposium)

  • Date: October 6-7, 2021
  • Venue: OIST Campus auditorium, online