Animal minds

Invertebrate intelligence: Independent thinking with a vengeance?

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In the essay noted here, philosopher Godfrey-Smith takes on the question of what invertebrate intelligence feels like. Invertebrates have a distributed body plan so it would have to feel like your arm is part of yourself but also part independent. The reason this is of interest is that I noted here, octopuses and squid are unusually intelligent:

Some invertebrates, especially mollusks, are also unexpectedly intelligent. Underwater footage shows that, in the first known example of tool use among octopi, one species of octopus has learned to dig up and use discarded halved coconut shells as a shelter.

Neatly halved coconuts are a human discard, so the behavior may actually have been learned in recent millennia. Researchers think that the octopi were using some less satisfactory material before, but they had the intelligence to just switch. More.

6 Replies to “Invertebrate intelligence: Independent thinking with a vengeance?

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    I remember reading about fish that kept mysteriously disappearing from a fish-tank over night, and the eventual discovery that an octopus in a tank on the other side of the room being responsible.

    It used to sneak out of its own tank, cross the floor, raid the other tank and returning to its own tank for the rest of the night. ‘Honest, guvnor, it wasn’t me.’

  2. 2
    News says:

    Makes sense. I remember a story like that from Toronto, Canada, except that it involved a fat white cat. He would sit motionless for hours at the edge of a lily pond. Fish were disappearing, but the story was, it can’t be him, he never moves.

    I asked, are you sure he NEVER moves? Has any human being been appointed to watch him without ceasing? Well, no, because humans have to work, right?

    Hmmm. When the cat is lucky, he scores a fish, but the odds are no human will see it happening.

    At the end of the week, there are fewer fish, that’s all we know. And has anyone weighed the cat recently?

    (Octopuses can, as you suggest, spend some time out of water. I’d say it’s a fair cop that Mr. 8 dunit.)

  3. 3
    Barb says:

    Here’s a giant pacific octopus walking on the deck of a boat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yHIsQhVxGM

    Hey, given enough time and evolution, octopi could take over the world (right?). Consider:

    1. To catch prey, they have a lot of different hunting techniques: using tools, building nests, and the like.
    2. Octopi have excellent memories. Scientists have taught octopuses all sorts of tricks, like disassembling LEGO models, opening locked cages, and solving mazes. Scientists also believe that octopi can hold grudges as well.
    3. They can (and have) escaped their tanks and scurried on the ground LIKE ALL THE NIGHTMARES EVER.
    4. Some species are shape-shifters.

  4. 4
    Robert Byers says:

    Creatures are not intelligent. They simply can think using their memories.
    People think with our souls and so are fantastically smart.
    Then we figure things out by nature outside our bodies including using our memories.
    animals don’t reflect but mostly compare memorized conclusions.
    They are dumb.

  5. 5
    Barb says:

    Contra Robert, some animals (dolphins, dogs, and octopi) do express a degree of what might be termed intelligence. They can be taught to follow rudimentary instructions (ever watched a dolphin show at Sea World?) but they don’t have human-level intelligence. At best, they have good instincts.

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    Barb
    I don’t think there is any difference between creatures on smarts.
    Its not intelligence I’m saying unless even our immune system is intelligent.
    Creationism should not agree we are just smarter then creatures.
    We are totally different in our thinking.
    We already are brilliant thinkers and need only acquire information to have the result of being intelligent.
    Creatures never acquire new info except whats already in understood in their memory to be important.
    There is a wall to creatures because they are not made in Gods image or rather in his thinking ability.
    God is not just more smarter then creatures.
    I think creatures can’t be intelligent because they are not reflective but only responsive.
    I think animals do most of their ‘thinking’ by using just their memory. Which is probably equal to our own in storage ability.

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