Home Sciences The octopus: an animal with nine brains and a Hollywood Oscar

The octopus: an animal with nine brains and a Hollywood Oscar


Some scientists have ventured that they are aliens. They have three hearts, blue blood, nine brains (or a multiple brain), eight arms capable of independently “thinking” for themselves, and two thousand suction cups with which they can feel, smell, taste, and use tools. They change shape and color at will, are able to solve problems, learn from their mistakes and develop hunting strategies. They have extraordinary intelligence, excellent memory, gaming ability, stable personality traits, and self-awareness.. It is the octopusa fascinating creature, which in 2021 also won a Hollywood Oscar.

The octopus continues to amaze scientists. So much so that three years ago a team of 33 researchers ventured that it is not originally from Earth, but extraterrestrial. According to this study, which has been questioned by the scientific community and has received a barrage of criticism, a set of meteorites that collided with Earth a little over 540 million years ago carried fertilized octopod eggs.

Interest in this amazing animal redoubled in 2021, when won the Oscar for best documentary ‘What the octopus taught me’ (Octopus Teacher). The recording recounts in first person the unusual friendship that a female octopus and the South African diver Craig Foster maintained for almost a year, and the impact that relationship had on him.

Apart from its great cinematographic beauty, the documentary, shot in the kelp forests of the southern tip of Africa, reveals some of the ‘superpowers’ of octopuses, such as their enormous capacity for learning, their curiosity and their mastery in the art of camouflage.

This alien-like being is capable, for example, of transporting materials to build shelters, going to dry land, crawling and even walking on two legs if in danger. It can detach one of its tentacles if it is attacked. Then he recognizes his lost limb and differentiates it from that of other congeners and other species.

In addition, the amputated tentacles continue to carry out cognitive tasks, moving and acting on their own for a few hours, which often manages to mislead predators. But it is that, in addition, the octopus regenerates its tentacles in a few weeks: they grow again.

Scientists have verified that the octopus has what is called presynaptic facilitation of serotonin, a neurotransmitter substance that influences mood, emotions and depressive states. In fact, a San Francisco State University study concluded a month ago that octopuses are capable of feeling complex emotional pain, just like humanschimpanzees or dogs.

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They are self-aware

The Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness, signed in 2010 by a group of neuroscientists, includes the octopus among the animals that are aware of themselves, such as humans, dolphins, great apes or elephants.It has also been proven that octopuses are capable of playing for fun with other congeners, and even with specimens of other species.

More than 300 different species of octopus are known. All of them are poisonous (they use toxins to paralyze their prey), but only one is deadly to humans, the blue-ringed octopus. There is evidence that this animal has killed two people.

The octopuses expel clouds of toxic ink that, in addition to hiding them, contain a substance that dulls the senses of smell and taste of the predator and can even kill it.

The only hard part of the octopus’s body is its beak, which is located in the mouth, in the center of the body, through which the poison is injected. Having no internal or external skeleton (they are almost entirely muscle) they can enter almost any corner to escape predators or to stalk their prey.

Despite being a mollusk, the octopus has excellent vision, very different from that of the rest of the invertebrates, and with some similarities to that of the human being. Although they are colorblind and do not ‘see’ colors, they are capable of ‘feeling’ them by measuring the angle of chromatic aberration of objects, which allows them to perfectly imitate the hue of the surfaces on which they rest and blend in with the around. In addition, they change their vision spectrum at will to adapt to the depth of the waters.

Another curiosity of these animals is that the females, after laying their eggs (up to 400,000) in the depths of a crack, stop eating until they are consumed to defend the eggs, provide them with oxygen and clean them of impurities by constantly pumping water. One month after laying after hatching the eggs, the mother dies.

Males also die shortly after mating. Hence, their life expectancy in most species is just over a year. And hence also that the little newborn octopuses cannot learn anything from their parents and have to fend for themselves. Their very high learning speed helps them.

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Instead of hemoglobin, octopus blood uses hemocyanin, which contains copper, which makes it blue. The octopus is not only an artist of camouflage, it is also a perfect imitator: it simulates the shape and movements of more than a dozen species, including sea snakes or lionfish, both venomous, which allows it to scare away their predators.

They throw objects and unscrew jars

They are able to walk on two legs, both on land and at the bottom of the sea, and perform tasks as complex as unscrewing jars (from inside and outside), disassemble the filtration system of an aquarium, prepare ambushes for their prey, launch objects as if they were projectiles against their predators, navigate without getting lost through complex labyrinths or recognize themselves in a mirror.

Five years ago, the story of ‘Inky’, an octopus who lived in the National Aquarium of New Zealand and was able to return to the sea after escaping through a drainage pipe without his keepers noticing, was known.

Another octopus ‘Otto’, learned in a German aquarium that throwing water towards the lights that illuminated the room managed to leave everything in the dark. He did it for several days in a row.

Loctopuses have three hearts. Two of them pump blood to the gills, and the third to the rest of the body. They have nine brains, one main and eight secondary, one in each tentacle. Hence, these eight arms are ‘intelligent’ and capable of making decisions independently, without the need for the central brain to send the orders, as research from the University of Washington showed in 2019.

Scientists suspect (they have not yet been able to prove it reliably) that octopuses dream: while they sleep they experience different states, one analogous to the REM of humans, and change color, as if they were reacting to some kind of reverie.

Octopus fossils have been found up to 300 million years old, revealing that They have existed since before the dinosaurs appeared. and demonstrates the success of the species. They are mollusks that at some point (scientists believe that 275 million years ago) lost their protective shell. In return, they further developed their intellectual abilities.


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