There is something about octopuses that unnerves me. Whenever I see one, I almost feel as though I should grovel before it and bring it gifts. In recent years, there have been many signs that cephalopods (and octopuses in particular) might be superior to humans and just lets us think we are the kings of the hill because we are beneath their notice.
First of all, biologists can’t seem to agree exactly how intelligent octopuses really are. All they know for sure is that they are quite intelligent indeed. They are highly analytic and curious and when faced with an obstacle to something they want, they carefully investigate and attempt to solve the problem. For example, in one instance when scientists presented an octopus with a lidded jar containing food, the octopus fiddled with it and figured out how to unscrew the lid and get to the food in a disconcertingly quick manner.
They have also been known to crawl out of their tanks at exhibits and raid nearby tanks of shellfish and other tasty prey. Being invertebrates, they can squeeze through almost any opening. As if that wasn’t enough, they’re also capable of using tools such as empty shells, and as Australian scientists recently observed, coconuts which are carried around and used as little makeshift fortresses when threatened (as seen in the video below).
The octopus brain is another sign that they might be superintelligent creatures from another dimension. You see, only a small part of their very complex nervous system is located in their brain; the majority is actually located throughout their tentacles. This grants an exceptional level of autonomy to each individual tentacle. Research suggests that the brain only sends out very basic instructions to each tentacle and that each one actually decides on its own how to carry out those intructions. Not to mention that the myriad of suction cups on each arm require a lot of brain power, considering they’re incredibly powerful suction devices that can create a pressure to up to 100-200 kPa (kilopascals; 100 kilopascals is approximately equal to one atmosphere). They’re also actuely sensitive; they allow the octopus to taste their surroundings. The tentacles are not only smart and perceptive, they’re also strong and agile. They’re made almost entirely out of muscle and without those irksome bones that we vertebrates have, their range of motion is almost unlimited. Certain species of octopus are strong enough to break through plexiglas and/or wrestle down and eat sharks. Yes, that’s right, there are octopuses that hunt and devour sharks. If you don’t believe me, here’s a video to prove it.
The only hope we have in the face of the imminent cephalopod takeover is the fact that octopuses doesn’t live very long. Some species only live for roughly 6 months, while some can live up to five years. Their reproductive habits also limits their capabilities as planetary overlords; males die within a few months after mating and after the female has laid her 200,000’ish eggs, she watches over them for around one month, during which time she doesn’t hunt or feed. Sometimes the female even has to ingest one of her own arms to survive. After the eggs hatch, the female leaves the area, and being weak from malnourishment, she often succumbs to other predators.