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Saturday, 09 August 2003

Pre-emptively bowing to cephalopoid overlords

More octopus links, because they're so damn interesting:

  • What is this octopus thinking?
    In the cephalopods alone among the molluscs, evolution has also constructed a brain. It has greatly expanded the forwardmost pairs of ganglia and moved them closer together to create a tightly packed mass of lobes that lies between the eyes and encircles the oesophagus. This is an awkward arrangement in some ways - researchers have discovered spines lodged in octopus brains, the result of a meal going down the wrong way.
  • The Octopus News Magazine Online
  • National Resource Center for Cephalopods
  • Armed But Not Dangerous
    Octopus literature is filled with tales of naturalists briefly leaving animals in open tanks and returning to find them scaling a bookcase, hiding in a teapot or expired on the carpet. Astonishingly compressible, an octopus can ooze through an opening no bigger than one of its eyeballs. Its yen to get loose is probably linked to an instinctive urge to change dens every week or two. But on dry land, an octopus is doomed: Within half an hour, it will die from lack of oxygen.
  • Armed and mysterious in Puget Sound
    Anderson offered anecdotal evidence to back up his claim of octopus intelligence: Years ago, a woman was hired by the Aquarium to work as the night-shift biologist. She would come in every night, shine a light on the sleeping octopus and then leave. Eventually, Anderson said, the octopus learned to recognize the woman.

6 comments and trackbacks

Don't forget the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus, http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus.html, that is so mythical, it's endangered.

Posted by: Bill Humphries on August 10, 2003 10:15 PM

I saw that page when I was searching for the links for this entry. I must admit that it took me a good five minutes before I realised it for what it was...

Posted by: Dan Hon on August 11, 2003 12:11 AM

In April 2001, a few Israeli scinetists completed a study showing that octopi have a brain in each tentacle. All the main brain does is coordinate these tenticular brains, and the brain in the tentacle actually copes with contracting the right muscles and dealing with sensory feedback. The benefit of this system, as well as being able to offload work out of the head, is faster response to stimuli on the tentacles, and so greater delicacy and control of movement - especially for larger octopi.

OK, so it's more a collection of ganglia rather than a true brain, but cool or what?

(Source: Nature, something like June 2001)

Posted by: Rowan on August 11, 2003 09:11 AM

Duh, evidently I missed the mention of this in the first article you mention. Duhhhh.

Posted by: Rowan on August 11, 2003 09:17 AM

There was a programme on one of the satellite channels in late June about a possible evolutionary path for squid after some mass-extinction event. (I think there was some mention of the fact that the cause for said event could well be humans.) I didn't see it, but the article I heard about it from is, thankfully, archived, although the rather odd picture of the megasquid isn't.


Posted by: paul mison on August 12, 2003 10:36 PM

Stephen Baxter's Manifold[1] series (a nice story that gets wrecked by two progressively worse books) contains squid as centre stage characters - genetically engineered and pretty much uplifted by NASA since they're scarily well adapted to the movement in space.

[1] reviewed here:

Posted by: Dan Hon on August 12, 2003 10:42 PM

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