Dwelling in the cold waters along the rocky coast of the Pacific Northwest is an otherworldly creature.
It has three hearts, which pump pale blue blood through its boneless, rubbery body. Its large brain encircles its throat and extends down into each of its eight arms, giving these appendages an eerie ability to crawl away on their own if severed. Individuals can reach an incredible size: up to 30 feet across and weighing 600 pounds. Despite being colorblind, this creature can quickly change its skin color to match its surroundings, making it virtually invisible to harbor seals, sperm whales, and sea otters – its natural predators.
I am talking, of course, about the Giant Pacific Octopus.
The Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) is a mollusk, making it a relative of clams, oysters, slugs, and snails. Among mollusks– and all other invertebrates, for that matter– octopuses are the undisputed geniuses. They are also very smart in comparison to most vertebrate animals. A Giant Pacific Octopus is at least as smart as your dog or cat.
The Intelligence of the Giant Pacific Octopus
In laboratory tests, Giant Pacific Octopuses are able to distinguish shapes and patterns, solve mazes, and twist open jar lids. They have individual personalities, which means that their actions aren’t the result of genetically-determined instincts alone. Intelligence and curiosity are revealed in many of their behaviors. For example, inquisitive octopuses sometimes swim up to “taste” and fondle the masks of human divers with their tentacles.
Captive octopuses have crawled out of their aquariums at night to flop into neighboring tanks, where they feasted on small fish. Fully satisfied with their surreptitious meals, they shuffled back to their own tanks, leaving puddles of evidence behind.
The Giant Pacific Octopus engages in REM sleep and shows brainwave patterns during sleep which suggest that these animals may have the ability to dream.They may even posses conciousness.
The idea that an invertebrate might possess some of the same mental abilities as us brainy primates leaves some people in awe and others in skeptical disbelief.
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