Okay, the Octopus is smart. Not only does it have a big brain, one of the biggest of all living things relative to its body weight, but it also has a brain in each of its eight tentacles. In other words, each arm has a brain of its own which enables it to do amazing things, but it also has a 9th brain, a central brain, which controls the whole being. The octopus brain-body ratio is the highest of all invertebrates.
Tell me, O Octopus, I begs, Is those things arms, or is they legs? I marvel at thee, Octopus If I were thou, I'd call me Us.
Scientists have studied the intelligence of the octopus, and have found it demonstrated over and over. They can navigate mazes, can open jars to get food, can get themselves out of containers. My favourite is their apparent zest for mischief. If nothing else, what further proof is required? A wonderful example was a story told of an octopus habitally sneaking out of its tank at night and crawling over to a fish tank, eating all the fish, and then sneaking back to its own tank to hide. They mystery was only solved when a video was set up and it was caught “red-handed”.
The octopus is also a tool user, which puts them alongside a very small group of animals including some birds, dolphins, and monkeys…the key message is that tool use means an ability to learn.
The octopus can also recognise people’s faces. It is a sign of intelligence to be able to recognise individuals from another species.
Sexy time. The male of some species of Octopus doesn’t just leave his sperm behind, sometimes he leaves the whole apparatus, and as a result, dies shortly thereafter. That’s one heck of a way to go.
Some octopus mothers watch over their young so vigilantly that they won’t even stop to eat, and literally end up dying because of their focus on care. So, here we have a world of orphan octopuses…the father dies from sex, and the mother dies from child-rearing. Gosh, what a developmental crisis they must face!
And of course, many octopus species are masters of disguise, whether it is jetting their ink to get out of sticky situations, changing their skin like chameleons to blend into their surroundings, or in covering their bodies with piles of shells to hide, there can be no doubt that they are indeed quite clever.
The octopus also literally has blue blood. Proof of nobility? No, but cooler still. Instead of iron, as we humans have in our blood, an octopuses blood contains copper, which is more efficient at carrying oxygen in the cold and low-oxygen conditions they live in…and yes, the octopus has three hearts, one to pump the oxygenated blood around the body, and the other two to pump water over the gills, so that oxygen can be extracted from the water.
But my favourite thing of all? Lady octopuses throw shells and sand and other debris at males who annoy them. She does it to tell him she is not amused by his advances.
Pretty cool. Maybe I won’t eat them anymore after all.