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The Brilliant Octopus: So Smart It's Scary!

Genome discovered in octopus may provide clues into how their other-worldly intelligence evolved!

Did you know that the octopus has long been considered by scientist as the most intelligent invertebrate? 

Why? Well, there are many reasons: those 8 long arms have a knack for performing complex actions. Each arm contains thousands of suckers with a complex neural control center that allows octopuses to solve problems quickly and even remember those solutions for the short term. They can even navigate their way through mazes and be engaged in play, something that only intelligent animals can do! 

Researchers have recently found some clues to better understand this complex creature that has seemed alien for so long.  

A recent study of the octopus genome has helped researchers gain insight into the mind-boggling question of how the cephalopods, a class of free-floating molluscs, produced the ridiculously intelligent octopus. The octopus is clever enough to navigate highly complex mazes and open jars filled with tasty crabs, to name a few. Check out the clip below to see this happen in real time! 

Studying the octopus genome has revealed a structure very similar to that of humans, but with more protein-coding genes. These extra genes are mainly a result of two gene families that have expanded in the octopus to cater to its strange anatomy. One of these gene groups is the protocadherins, which control neural development and short-range interactions. The octopus has twice as many of these genes than other mammals because of its large brain and many arms, which can act as completely independent vessels when they perform cognitive tasks. 

The analysis also discovered hundreds of other genes that are specific to the octopus, such as in the suckers that have genes to enable the octopus’s ability to taste using them. The discovery in the genome that provided clues to the basis of an octopus’s intelligence was related to the systems that allow tissues to rapidly modify proteins to change their function based on all the data an octopus receives from its surroundings.

What do you think of the new discover about the scary smart octopus? Let us know in the comments section below!

Author: Gal Shyli Dayan

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