Sub­sea smarts

From es­cap­ing cap­tiv­ity to tar­get­ing peo­ple with jets of water, oc­to­puses are noth­ing if not crafty

How It Works - - ENVIRONMENT -

It’s no se­cret that cephalopods are clever. With large brains (es­pe­cially for crea­tures with­out back­bones), oc­to­puses are able to solve prob­lems, learn from their en­coun­ters and even ex­pe­ri­ence sleep and play. These have all been tested in lab­o­ra­to­ries across the globe, with oc­to­puses oblig­ing by nav­i­gat­ing mazes, solv­ing puz­zles to gain ac­cess to food and us­ing their elab­o­rate arms to mis­chie­vously play with items in their tanks. One oc­to­pus even flooded the Santa Mon­ica Pier Aquar­ium by tam­per­ing with a valve in her tank. There are also anec­dotes of oc­to­puses sneak­ing out of their tanks at night to feed on other aquar­ium res­i­dents.

This is all pos­si­ble due in part to their eight dex­ter­ous ap­pendages that con­tain the ma­jor­ity of their neu­rons, al­low­ing them to work in­de­pen­dently with­out in­put from the brain. With 500 mil­lion neu­rons present, this places oc­to­puses close to the realm of dogs, although the amount of neu­rons isn’t nec­es­sar­ily an in­di­ca­tor of in­tel­li­gence.

Like dogs, how­ever, those who have spent time with oc­to­puses will at­test to their var­i­ous dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties and how some oc­to­puses in aquar­i­ums will squirt water at spe­cific em­ploy­ees when they ap­proach, tes­ta­ment to their pow­ers of recog­ni­tion.

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