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Nature & Environment

Could octopuses one day take over the world ?

March 12, 2021 · Comment icon 27 comments

Just how clever can octopuses get ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 Sylke Rohrlach
It is a well known fact that the humble octopus is clever as far as animals go, but is there a limit to its potential?
Despite their small size and alien-like tentacles, octopuses are remarkably brainy - as evidenced by studies that have recorded them manipulating objects and using tools to solve simple problems.

Octopus intelligence is particularly interesting to science because it has evolved completely independently to our own, but just how intelligent could octopuses become if they were left to their own devices for a few million more years of time and evolution ?

In a recent article for The Conversation, Prof Culum Brown from Macquarie University attempted to answer this very question after a 14-year-old school pupil wrote a letter asking if octopuses could one day become intelligent enough to take over the world and travel into space.

One of the biggest arguments against octopuses evolving to human-like levels of intelligence, he noted, was that they simply don't live very long, with even the largest species living only 5 years.

They also have the disadvantage of evolving extremely slowly compared to humans.
"There are about 300 different species of octopus, which have been around for at least 300 million years," Brown wrote. "In that time, they haven't changed much."

"Modern humans, by comparison, have only existed for 200,000 years and in that time, have taken over the planet (and badly damaged it in the process)."

Ultimately then, octopuses are somewhat restrained by their own biology.

"So, the first item on an evil octopus to-do list for taking over the world is to live well beyond your first birthday," Brown wrote. "Second on the list might be to develop 'cumulative culture' by learning from others like humans do. We already know an octopus can learn by watching other octopuses, but as yet we don't have evidence of culture."

"Very few creatures display intelligence comparable to humans and understanding why is a long-standing scientific question. The most likely explanation is that brain tissue is extremely expensive to maintain, in terms of energy required to keep brain cells firing."

"So there need to be big benefits to justify the expense."

All things considered, it seems unlikely that we'll be seeing spacefaring octopuses anytime soon.

Source: The Conversation | Comments (27)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #18 Posted by Hyperionxvii 3 years ago
Well, the octopi will definitely need their squid cousins to take on the whales and dolphins, and most likely the Japanese. 
Comment icon #19 Posted by Hyperionxvii 3 years ago
I keep wanting to post the link to that Seaworld episode of South Park, but I'm not sure what the rules on swearing are around here. I already got into trouble once for responding to a post about certain unmentionable plants here. F a U whaaarrrres and F a U dolpheeensss! I'm still sending the link to the octopi, because if we can't make sushi and lamp oil out of the whales and dolphins, what use are they?
Comment icon #20 Posted by Abramelin 3 years ago
Season 11, episode 13:      
Comment icon #21 Posted by Abramelin 3 years ago
They - octopus and squid - have a language of their own, but not a language based on sound, but on colors instead. The next video is not the one I wanted to show, because I couldn't find it right now. That video showed squids communicating with eachother through swiftly changing colors and color patterns. It was amazing to watch. Ok, so the next one is the video that at least shows you what these sea creatures can do with the colors of their skin:  
Comment icon #22 Posted by smanthaonvaca 3 years ago
If octopus were in consideration for ruling the world, they may need some more help on their side. I think the blue whale would be on their side, but the sperm whale and orcas would be on cthulhu's side. I could see plankton (especially phyto), shellfish, krill, turtles, manatees, moon jellyfish, eels, starfish, and some cephalopods (class) and mollusca (phylum) on the krakens side. I would be choosing them based on some biological similarities (like number of appendages for krill) but mostly because of how they function in their ecosystem. I see pretty cool but less vicious animals (manatees,... [More]
Comment icon #23 Posted by smanthaonvaca 3 years ago
Cthulhu: Manowar, crab, box jelly, flying fish, sperm whale, swordfish, mako shark, hammerhead shark, puffer fish, seals, manta ray, crocodile, barnacle, narwhal.
Comment icon #24 Posted by Hyperionxvii 3 years ago
The very first time I was in Brazil, in Pernambuco state, I was walking along the beach one morning and I see this very bright fluorescent pink thing on the beach a few yards in front of me. It was a jellyfish. I took a wide berth around it and that was when I decided there was no way I was going in the water there. 
Comment icon #25 Posted by razman 3 years ago
If they can develop some water masks to come on land and develop some good weapons , then maybe.
Comment icon #26 Posted by moonman 3 years ago
After a few hundred million years, maybe.
Comment icon #27 Posted by Mant00 3 years ago
For 2 to 3 lb octopus, it will usually take e between 1 to 2 hours coked in pot . The knife should slide in easily when done .If not allow more time to cook. Once the octopus is tender Grill it or slice it in a salad.

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