Interest in cephalopods as comparative models in neuroscience, cognition, behavior, and ecology is surging due to recent advances in culture and experimental techniques. Although cephalopods have a long history in research, their use had remained limited due to the challenges of funding work on comparative models, the lack of modern techniques applicable to them, and the small number of labs with the facilities to keep and house large numbers of healthy animals for long periods. Breakthroughs in each of these areas are now creating new interest in cephalopods from researchers who trained and worked in other models, as well as allowing established cephalopod labs to grow and collaborate more widely. This broadening of the field is essential to its long-term health, but also brings with it new and heightened scrutiny from animal rights organizations, federal regulatory agencies, and members of the public. As a community, it is critical that scientists working with cephalopods engage in discussions, studies, and communication that promote high standards for cephalopod welfare. The concept of “social license to operate,” more commonly encountered in industry, recreation, and agriculture, provides a useful lens through which to view proactive steps the cephalopod research community may take to ensure a strong future for our field. In this Perspective, I discuss recent progress in cephalopod ethics and welfare studies, and use the conceptual framework of Social License to Operate to propose a forward-looking, public-facing strategy for the parallel development of welfare-focused best practices and scientific breakthroughs.
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Cephalopods’ remarkable behavior and complex neurobiology make them valuable comparative model organisms, but studies aimed at enhancing welfare of captive cephalopods remain uncommon. Increasing regulation of cephalopods in research laboratories has resulted in growing interest in welfare-oriented refinements, including analgesia and anesthesia. Although general and local anesthesia in cephalopods have received limited prior study, there have been no studies of systemic analgesics in cephalopods to date. Here we show that analgesics from several different drug classes may be effective in E. berryi. Buprenorphine, ketorolac and dexmedetomidine, at doses similar to those used in fish, showed promising effects on baseline nociceptive thresholds, excitability of peripheral sensory nerves, and on behavioral responses to transient noxious stimulation. We found no evidence of positive effects of acetaminophen or ketamine administered at doses that are effective in vertebrates. Bioinformatic analyses suggested conserved candidate receptors for dexmedetomidine and ketorolac, but not buprenorphine. We also show that rapid general immersion anesthesia using a mix of MgCl2 and ethanol was successful in E. berryi at multiple age classes, similar to findings in other cephalopods. These data indicate that systemic analgesia and general anesthesia in Euprymna berryi are achievable welfare enhancing interventions, but further study and refinement is warranted.more » « lessFree, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2024