Scientists Agree: Octopuses Are Intelligent, and Might Think Like Us

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Scientists Agree: Octopuses Are Intelligent, and Might Think Like Us

The octopus' genome has been fully sequenced by a team based at the University of Chicago, and the discoveries therein are blowing people's minds.

It's common knowledge now that octopuses - or octopi, or octopodes, if you prefer - are incredibly strange and intelligent animals. They can unscrew themselves from inside jars; use cocount shells to build little mobile homes. But how did they get so smart - and do they think at all like us?

Researchers from the University of Chicago have just sequenced the genome (published in Nature) of the eight-armed mollusc, and the findings so far have been providing both answers and questions.

At first, the octopus' genes appeared to have a lot in common with its mollusc relatives, such as snails and clams. One stark area of differentiation, however, was in the expansion of a group of genes associated with brain development, and once thought to be utterly unique to vertebrates.

To put that another way: octopuses are very, very far removed from us on the tree of life - and yet the genes that control their brain development have more in common with similar genes in reptiles, birds, or humans than they do with those of other invertebrates.

This is likely a case of convergent evolution - when two similar adaptations appear despite a a chasm of genetic difference. Wings in birds and insects make one example; the eye, too, was independently developed several dozen times throughout evolution.

Among other fun discoveries made was the part of the octopus genome that controls its translucent skin and adaptive coloration - that's where the animal can quickly change its skin color to blend in with surroundings or, some say, to communicate with others of its species.

More awesome octopod news: Adorabilis, the world's cutest octopus!

Man, octopuses are going to take over the world some day. Do you think that, when they do, they'll remake Oldboy and have a scene at the beginning where a starved octopus chows down on a living human being?

Source:Discovery, Nature

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So the time of the Squibbon is closer then we think

and that's another edition of obscure reference daily

Kalamari don't need to be smart, they need to be tasty, dammit! Scientists, get on that, instead of this hogwash.

And now I am thinking of Eclipse Phase (a sci-fi tabletop RPG setting), where sapient, genetically-uplifted octopi are one of the playable species.

image

Not worth it.

And we thought it was gonna be the dolphins that took over... Blindsided, damn...

In all seriousness now the question is just how intelligent are they?

Sarge034:
And we thought it was gonna be the dolphins that took over... Blindsided, damn...

Jury is still out.

Sarge034:

In all seriousness now the question is just how intelligent are they?

Smart enough to get into jars, not smart enough to get out?
They are absolutely the smartest animal other than man ... which confuses me, because there are plenty of animals not as smart that act smarter. :/

They certainly think like the Japanese! HEYO!

JustAnotherAardvark:
Jury is still out.

What if they... *gasp* ... join forces? O.O

Smart enough to get into jars, not smart enough to get out?

I thought they could open jars from the inside?

Sarge034:
And we thought it was gonna be the dolphins that took over... Blindsided, damn...

In all seriousness now the question is just how intelligent are they?

I can answer that. Extremely-good problem-solving skills, memory, and a general craftiness that goes beyond instinct. One of the earlier tales of surprising octopus intelligence was the old case of the two tanks. Two tanks of water, both covered, one with fishies and one with an octopus. One day, someone noticed there were less fishies in the fish tank than before and wondered why. After some discussion with other employees, they decided to put in a camera and SEE what was going on, because this happening with regular frequency. Camera tells all. The octopus was waiting for closing time and lights out to go and lift its own fish tank lid, crawl out, plop onto the floor, crawl across the floor, climb up the tank, lift the other lid, jump in with the fishies, and eat some before returning in the same fashion. The octopus figured out doors, how to get across a dry room to food, and returned. It was not actually caught doing so by observers, only be a recording device that it could not yet have understood. Because CLEARLY it waited for people to leave.

EDIT: Yes, they can open the jars, either side. In fact, some can squeeze through beer bottlenecks.

Sarge034:

What if they... *gasp* ... join forces? O.O

The Grand Dame had them riding lizardy sea monsters in her book, but I totally am with that ... octopi riding sharks ... on porpoise! (I'm going to hell...)

Sarge034:

I thought they could open jars from the inside?

That's the weirdness (very smart ... yet very dumb); you catch octopi by putting down empty jars; they use them as homes, you hall the jars up ... sashimi ensues.

In one respect I find this pretty cool, but another part of me is screaming:

ITS A TRAP!!!

I heard that some of them have the ability to shapeshift into human beings and pretend to be them, especially important political figures.

I for one welcome our new Cephalopod overlords. I'm assuming their first course of order is banning marinara sauce.

Sarge034:
And we thought it was gonna be the dolphins that took over... Blindsided, damn...

In all seriousness now the question is just how intelligent are they?

So, funny thing you should mention dolphins.

Sapient, genetically-uplifted dolphins are a playable species in Eclipse Phase too. And they get just as many cyborg augmentations as humans or anyone else.
image
(Okay, technically this is a porpoise, which are also there too. But you get the idea)

Here's a dolphin with cyborg arms
image
(Eclipse Phase is such a neat, bonkers game-world :D )

As for how intelligent, more than you'd think. A lot of of the really top-tier intelligent animals are. Everyone knows about primates, and some primate species really are quite intelligent, but there are other non-primates that are definitely up there. Octopi, Elephants, Dolphins, Crows, and more.

Crows are especially cool (and underrated). They can actually pass on information indirectly from one generation to the next. A human goes and harasses (or kills) crows, and even several generations down the road the younger crows will still avoid them, or attack them on sight, even if they have never actually seen them do anything to fellow crows. They've been able to solve all sorts of puzzles in captivity (some of which involved modifying supplied materials into tools), and in the wild they have even been known to shape leaves into rudimentary tools for digging insects out of trees.

So we're accepting that much as fact. So that's how many unique species on the planet that have fairly advanced intelligence other than humans? Dolphins, various apes and monkeys, and now octopi.

Really makes it seem like if another planet has life, there is probably intelligent life on it.

It also makes me wonder if there were other species on Earth before us, and not similar to us, that had advanced levels of intelligence. I mean there have been some 3 different mass extinction events on Earth, right? Were there some intelligent animals among them?

FalloutJack:

Sarge034:
And we thought it was gonna be the dolphins that took over... Blindsided, damn...

In all seriousness now the question is just how intelligent are they?

I can answer that. Extremely-good problem-solving skills, memory, and a general craftiness that goes beyond instinct. One of the earlier tales of surprising octopus intelligence was the old case of the two tanks. Two tanks of water, both covered, one with fishies and one with an octopus. One day, someone noticed there were less fishies in the fish tank than before and wondered why. After some discussion with other employees, they decided to put in a camera and SEE what was going on, because this happening with regular frequency. Camera tells all. The octopus was waiting for closing time and lights out to go and lift its own fish tank lid, crawl out, plop onto the floor, crawl across the floor, climb up the tank, lift the other lid, jump in with the fishies, and eat some before returning in the same fashion. The octopus figured out doors, how to get across a dry room to food, and returned. It was not actually caught doing so by observers, only be a recording device that it could not yet have understood. Because CLEARLY it waited for people to leave.

EDIT: Yes, they can open the jars, either side. In fact, some can squeeze through beer bottlenecks.

The thing that bugs me is that I thought the octopus brain was very small. I knew they were surprising intelligent despite that, but really didn't think they were so smart that they were able to solve problems. How intelligent could they be? Man, this makes me wonder so much. They obviously recognize certain people, for example.

I also know of a story where they gave several octopi boxes or cans to open. There was no food or anything in the box, it was just to see if it could open it. But what they observed next was very surprising. One of the octopi would aim their water jet at the box making it hit the wall and bounce back. Then, it would catch the box and do it again. And again. It was literally playing "bounce the ball". It was playing purely for the entertainment value. Something that only fairly intelligent animals (think humans, dolphins, and even dogs) do.

OuendanCyrus:
I heard that some of them have the ability to shapeshift into human beings and pretend to be them, especially important political figures.

What? That's silly. You're silly.

Saltyk:
So we're accepting that much as fact. So that's how many unique species on the planet that have fairly advanced intelligence other than humans? Dolphins, various apes and monkeys, and now octopi.

Really makes it seem like if another planet has life, there is probably intelligent life on it.

It also makes me wonder if there were other species on Earth before us, and not similar to us, that had advanced levels of intelligence. I mean there have been some 3 different mass extinction events on Earth, right? Were there some intelligent animals among them?

That's actually really difficult to know. If we're talking about intelligent-but-not-sapient species like dolphins, octopi, primates, crows, etc.. then it's basically impossible to know. We're only able to glean so much from fossilized remains, and they wouldn't be smart enough to make proper tools, or leave behind art (assuming stuff like that can even hold up for millions and millions of years anyway).

The Mesozoic era lasted for dang near 200 million years. That is an unfathomable length of time compared to the measly 200,000 or so that homo sapiens has been around as a species (and even we still know precious little about our early history. I'd say that it is almost a certainty that we are missing huge swathes of our planet's history, and that extremely intelligent animals existed throughout Earth's various eras.

If you want to get super freaking out there though. The Sun is only about 4.5 billion years old. The universe is about 14 billion years old from our best estimation. The Sun, 100%, was born from the nebula left behind by another star that lived and died. Did it have planets? Could there have been life? A whole star system born, lived and died before the Sun and everything around it even existed. It's kind of cool to think about.

Saltyk:
So we're accepting that much as fact. So that's how many unique species on the planet that have fairly advanced intelligence other than humans? Dolphins, various apes and monkeys, and now octopi.

And rats. They're the only non-primate species so far that's been tested to show that they're capable of metacognition- in essence, knowing what you do and don't know prior to applying that knowledge.

tf2godz:
So the time of the Squibbon is closer then we think

and that's another edition of obscure reference daily

Ha! The first thing I thought of was Squibbons! Glad I'm not the only one who remembers that.

Well, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, for one, even if there was a sea creature every bit as intelligent as a human they wouldn't be able to establish a civilization anywhere near as powerful. Humans took hundreds of thousands of years of being for all practical purposes exactly as smart as they are now to actually accumulate enough knowledge to make anything we might call progress. Once the ball got rolling all the cultures that moved past a mere subsistence economy did what? They used bronze, and then iron. We call entire ages in our history by those materials because they were so important. Would an octopus ever be able to pour bronze and start building a civilization, even if it was twice as smart as us? Nope. You can't do that stuff underwater, and you cannot invent technologies that would let a fish go on land to do it without those advances. There would also be a significant issue with preserving food, which is a key technology in allowing a civilization to divide it's labor and free up people to invent things and build infrastructure instead of just farming. In short, building an underwater civilization that rivals human cultures would be impossible, it simply wouldn't be able to ever progress past the hunter-gatherer state of subsistence.

And then there is also the fact that there is a good chance that pretty much everything that lives in the ocean will be dead within the next 100 years or so because humans. The ocean is pretty much the thing that's been soaking up all the abuse we inflict on our ecosystem, and once that gives out, well, seafood haters rejoice.

Aetrion:
Well, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, for one, even if there was a sea creature every bit as intelligent as a human they wouldn't be able to establish a civilization anywhere near as powerful. Humans took hundreds of thousands of years of being for all practical purposes exactly as smart as they are now to actually accumulate enough knowledge to make anything we might call progress. Once the ball got rolling all the cultures that moved past a mere subsistence economy did what? They used bronze, and then iron. We call entire ages in our history by those materials because they were so important. Would an octopus ever be able to pour bronze and start building a civilization, even if it was twice as smart as us? Nope. You can't do that stuff underwater, and you cannot invent technologies that would let a fish go on land to do it without those advances. There would also be a significant issue with preserving food, which is a key technology in allowing a civilization to divide it's labor and free up people to invent things and build infrastructure instead of just farming. In short, building an underwater civilization that rivals human cultures would be impossible, it simply wouldn't be able to ever progress past the hunter-gatherer state of subsistence.

And then there is also the fact that there is a good chance that pretty much everything that lives in the ocean will be dead within the next 100 years or so because humans. The ocean is pretty much the thing that's been soaking up all the abuse we inflict on our ecosystem, and once that gives out, well, seafood haters rejoice.

Humans didn't have a more advanced species looking over their shoulder who could train them and provide them with technology though.

Well, we probably didn't...

Well intelligence is one thing, but understanding and passing on knowledge is the key ingredient to making real progress.
Hell even us humans were lumbering around uselessly with our super advanced brains for an estimated two million years before we got here (i.e. 2mil year old tools were found), simply because we had nothing to learn back then, no one wrote shit down so knowledge would just die with people and it went on and on and on.
What we think of as advanced technology mostly came in with the last 200 years, think about that scale for a second.

So if we ever get to see any kind of advancement from other species is highly questionable simply on the basis of time these things take.

tf2godz:
So the time of the Squibbon is closer then we think

and that's another edition of obscure reference daily

Not as obscure as you think - though I had forgotten that video!
Was that the same one that had the predatory slime-mould and the jungle-fish?

All this time we've been preparing for zombie apocalypses and robot uprisings...
While we really should have been preparing for the Octopus Overlords.

The spawn of Cthulhu are lying in wait... Watching for the opportunity to take revenge upon humanity for all the calamari we've eaten!

image
They are coming...

Well, nobody suspects a thing about Octodad...

I don't dispute Octopodes may be intelligent, but sentient? The more we learn about animals (and even plants, according to some), the more we realise that they are far more capable than was once thought. Magpies use tools, some species of ants use aphids as cattle, animals as varies as chimps and dolphins form intricate societies with different 'dialects' and group behaviour, etc.

Yet human intelligence, sapience, has not been found. There are no dolphin philosophers, there is no chimp writer, and there is no octopus working on a water tank to walk in air.

Unless an Octopus can recognize itself in a mirror, then it doesn't matter how smart it is at problem solving. The Mirror Test is important in understanding how intelligent and sapient a creature is; Apes, most Porpoises, Elephants and certain birds can recognize themselves in Mirrors. Rats are great Problem solvers, but they can't pass the Mirror Test. Surprisingly, even some species of Ants can recognize themselves in Mirrors!

So if Octopuses can't recognize themselves in mirrors, then they aren't anywhere near as intelligent or Sapient as people are making them out to be. Thus all this "Sapient Octopus Cyborgs taking over the world" stuff would be just silly.

rcs619:

Saltyk:
So we're accepting that much as fact. So that's how many unique species on the planet that have fairly advanced intelligence other than humans? Dolphins, various apes and monkeys, and now octopi.

Really makes it seem like if another planet has life, there is probably intelligent life on it.

It also makes me wonder if there were other species on Earth before us, and not similar to us, that had advanced levels of intelligence. I mean there have been some 3 different mass extinction events on Earth, right? Were there some intelligent animals among them?

That's actually really difficult to know. If we're talking about intelligent-but-not-sapient species like dolphins, octopi, primates, crows, etc.. then it's basically impossible to know. We're only able to glean so much from fossilized remains, and they wouldn't be smart enough to make proper tools, or leave behind art (assuming stuff like that can even hold up for millions and millions of years anyway).

The Mesozoic era lasted for dang near 200 million years. That is an unfathomable length of time compared to the measly 200,000 or so that homo sapiens has been around as a species (and even we still know precious little about our early history. I'd say that it is almost a certainty that we are missing huge swathes of our planet's history, and that extremely intelligent animals existed throughout Earth's various eras.

If you want to get super freaking out there though. The Sun is only about 4.5 billion years old. The universe is about 14 billion years old from our best estimation. The Sun, 100%, was born from the nebula left behind by another star that lived and died. Did it have planets? Could there have been life? A whole star system born, lived and died before the Sun and everything around it even existed. It's kind of cool to think about.

That's sort of my point. I was just wondering how intelligent some extinct animals may have been. And who knows how many species we have yet to find or may never find evidence of. It's sort of frightening. Considering that the Sun is some 4.5 billion years old, and life began appearing on Earth some 300 million years ago, there could have been past civilizations not dissimilar to our own that were lost in the millions of years between us with evidence being destroyed in one of the many extinction events between now and then.

May not be likely, but food for thought.

The Rogue Wolf:

Saltyk:
So we're accepting that much as fact. So that's how many unique species on the planet that have fairly advanced intelligence other than humans? Dolphins, various apes and monkeys, and now octopi.

And rats. They're the only non-primate species so far that's been tested to show that they're capable of metacognition- in essence, knowing what you do and don't know prior to applying that knowledge.

I left out several animals that I knew displayed intelligence. Crows being a big one as well. They use tools, modify objects to use as tools, have helped other crows, and plenty of other actions. They may well be among the smarter animals on the planet.

I suppose the intelligence of rats explains why they are used in experiments rather often.

Mr.Mattress:
Unless an Octopus can recognize itself in a mirror, then it doesn't matter how smart it is at problem solving. The Mirror Test is important in understanding how intelligent and sapient a creature is; Apes, most Porpoises, Elephants and certain birds can recognize themselves in Mirrors. Rats are great Problem solvers, but they can't pass the Mirror Test. Surprisingly, even some species of Ants can recognize themselves in Mirrors!

So if Octopuses can't recognize themselves in mirrors, then they aren't anywhere near as intelligent or Sapient as people are making them out to be. Thus all this "Sapient Octopus Cyborgs taking over the world" stuff would be just silly.

I'll do one better. Octopuses have displayed the ability to recognize humans. They conducted an experiment where one researcher fed an octopus and the other pestered it. Even years later, when the one who pestered it would walk by it would actually spray water at him. And only ever him.

immortalfrieza:
The spawn of Cthulhu are lying in wait... Watching for the opportunity to take revenge upon humanity for all the calamari we've eaten!

They are coming...

Uxia cordially invites you to join her.

image

Don't worry; she's no spawn of Cthulhu.
Just the granddaughter of Dagon.

So I guessing that game Octodad is relevent then assuming if our eyes are messed up aswell?

immortalfrieza:
The spawn of Cthulhu are lying in wait... Watching for the opportunity to take revenge upon humanity for all the calamari we've eaten!

Well, Cthulhu's all about squid. Are they the same in terms of brain power? It's not been tested. Octopoids...belong to Hastur, right? Good thing Henderson killed him...

And then we find out squid are intelligent as well and the next thing we know splatoon becomes a reality, humanity overthrown and now squids and octopi fighting it out using ink.

Saltyk:

The thing that bugs me is that I thought the octopus brain was very small. I knew they were surprising intelligent despite that, but really didn't think they were so smart that they were able to solve problems. How intelligent could they be? Man, this makes me wonder so much. They obviously recognize certain people, for example.

Funny you should mention that. While the Octopus central brain is rather small, its intelligence is actually distributed among its limbs.

Its tentacles have minds of their own.

rcs619:
And now I am thinking of Eclipse Phase (a sci-fi tabletop RPG setting), where sapient, genetically-uplifted octopi are one of the playable species.

image

I can't tell if that's cute, cool or nightmare fuel...

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