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At Mind Matters News: Octopuses create an “origin of intelligence” conundrum


Outstandingly bright — with eyes that strikingly resemble ours — yet their ancestors split from mammals and birds 600 million years ago… Some say, oh well, it’s convergent evolution.

But such convergent evolution raises a conundrum for conventional assumptions about evolution in general, including the evolution of intelligence (in terms of problem-solving skills). The intelligence of octopuses was not recognized in the past because many researchers assumed that intelligence itself was something of an accident that evolved among, say, mammals and birds. We do not really know how it is created but, after all, if it only happened once, it could be put down to a fluke…

[James Bridle] might be right in thinking that many life forms will turn out to be much more intelligent than we have supposed. But we don’t have evidence for that. What we have evidence for is a single very intelligent invertebrate (and some moderately intelligent ones like squid, crabs, and lobsters) that confound what we expected of evolution.

Denyse O’Leary, “Octopuses create an “origin of intelligence” conundrum” at Mind Matters News (August 18, 2022)

Takehome: The evolution of intelligence in mammals and birds could be dismissed as a fluke. Finding far-distant intelligent life forms suggests a pattern instead. But what is it?

You may also wish to read:

Octopuses get emotional about pain, research suggests. The smartest of invertebrates, the octopus, once again prompts us to rethink what we believe to be the origin of intelligence. The brainy cephalopods behaved about the same as lab rats under similar conditions, raising both neuroscience and ethical issues. (Denyse O’Leary)


Can squirrels really be socially unjust? Check their privilege? A recent paper suggests that the animal world, untroubled for aeons by any notion of conscience, has a lot to answer for. Researchers long assumed that people think like animals. But the equation reads the same in reverse: Animals think like people. Folklore soon trumps reality. (Denyse O’Leary)

"... their ancestors split from mammals and birds 600 million years ago… Some say, oh well, it’s convergent evolution." I suggest creating a piece of fiction titled When the Octopus was a Bird. Oh wait... relatd

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