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Nature: More info on why octopus is smart

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Generally, people who know them know that octopus/some squid are smart, compared to many similar life forms, but the mechanics by which their intelligence is mediated was unknown.

Now, from Nature:

Octopus genome holds clues to uncanny intelligence: DNA sequence expanded in areas otherwise reserved for vertebrates.

With its eight prehensile arms lined with suckers, camera-like eyes, elaborate repertoire of camouflage tricks and spooky intelligence, the octopus is like no other creature on Earth.

Added to those distinctions is an unusually large genome, described in Nature1 on 12 August, that helps to explain how a mere mollusc evolved into an otherworldly being.

Surprisingly, the octopus genome turned out to be almost as large as a human’s and to contain a greater number of protein-coding genes — some 33,000, compared with fewer than 25,000 in Homo sapiens.

This excess results mostly from the expansion of a few specific gene families, Ragsdale says. One of the most remarkable gene groups is the protocadherins, which regulate the development of neurons and the short-range interactions between them. The octopus has 168 of these genes — more than twice as many as mammals. This resonates with the creature’s unusually large brain and the organ’s even-stranger anatomy. Of the octopus’s half a billion neurons — six times the number in a mouse — two-thirds spill out from its head through its arms, without the involvement of long-range fibres such as those in vertebrate spinal cords. The independent computing power of the arms, which can execute cognitive tasks even when dismembered, have made octopuses an object of study for neurobiologists such as Hochner and for roboticists who are collaborating on the development of soft, flexible robots. More.

Obviously not your usual

Whisky and soda
And cephalopoda
Served on crackers with cheese

The major implication of such findings is that there is no “tree of intelligence.” That is, there is no common descent of intelligence. The actual story may be not only more complex but more profound.

See also: Matching Darwin’s “Tree of Life,” the “Tree of Intelligence” comes crashing down

and

Getting smarts: Intelligence is today’s unknown country.

What I (O’Leary for News) find interesting about the vid below is that neatly halved coconut shells are mainly a human discard (?). If so, the octopuses learned this behaviour within the period that humans were neatly halving coconuts (instead of just smashing them somehow).

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2 Replies to “Nature: More info on why octopus is smart

  1. 1
    goodusername says:

    News,

    The major implication of such findings is that there is no “tree of intelligence.” That is, there is no common descent of intelligence.

    You keep writing that there’s no “tree of intelligence” when I think you mean to say that there’s no “scala naturae of intelligence”.

    The old scala naturae had mammals above reptiles, which were above amphibians, which were above fish, etc. While, generally speaking, there is an order of intelligence here, there are plenty of exceptions.

    (I can’t even fathom what a “common descent of intelligence” means.)

  2. 2
    Robert Byers says:

    Well wouldn’t it be smart to have more then one pairs of arms eh??!!
    they are not smarter then other creatures. They are all dumb.
    These ideas on smartness based on brain stuff are just science fiction.
    Any dog is more or the same smart as a octopus.
    I do think old oct is smarter then these researchers .!
    I do like Ringo’s octopus song.
    Yes they are dumber please don’t accuse me of being anti-octopusitic .

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