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Her research: Jean is currently a 3rd year student studying a special defense behavior in octopuses. "Much like lizards who lose their tail when you try and capture them, an octopus will drop its arm if a predator were to grab hold of one," she says. Even though many studies on autotomy, the ability to shed a body part, have been done in articulated animals like lizards and crabs, little is known about this phenomenon in soft bodied animals like octopuses. "Losing any part of one's body is probably costly, but these octopuses have the ability to regenerate their arm. Its a wonder how they've evolved to do this and what selective pressures have led to the use of this extreme defense behavior in a variety of organisms."
What drew her to science and octopuses: "I've always been interested in marine biology. Growing up on the California coast, the ocean has been a constant reminder of how complex our world is and how little we know about it. Plus octopuses are so charismatic, with their ability to change colors so quickly and fit small cracks and crevices."
Why Berkeley and the UCMP? "There are so many opportunities for doing field work," says Jean. She hopes to do her field work in the tropics … or anywhere octopus can be found! "It's important to know the history of these animals to understand what processes led to the use of autotomy. One of the UCMP's many strengths is its expertise in considering history in answering biological questions by looking at evolution and the fossil record."