Eric Edsinger is an octopus researcher at the University of Chicago who recently helped sequence the genome of Octopus bimaculoides—the California two-spot octopus. Like most octopuses, this color-changing cephalopod is asocial, meaning it likes to be alone most of the time, unless it’s trying to mate. But when given MDMA, a drug well known for boosting emotional empathy and prosocial behavior in humans (i.e. making you really, really want to fraternize), these octopuses also seemed to want to hang out with each other, even if they weren’t trying to find a mate.
Posts tagged octopus
It’s not surprising that it has taken us a long time to reappraise the octopus, imbued with such mythical awe, as what it really is: an intelligent animal with entwining arms so filled with neurons that each of them possesses a separate personality. In the current nature writing boom– fuelled in part by new scientific discoveries – the revision of the octopus is just one in a series of natural histories, of creatures from corvids to cetaceans, which indicate that our awareness of other species is expanding exponentially. As an interviewee in Sy Montgomery’s remarkable book declares, “It’s really only in the last 20 years we could even be having this conversation. We’re only starting to understand animals.”
To investigate the molecular bases of cephalopod brain and body innovations, we sequenced the genome and multiple transcriptomes of the California two-spot octopus, Octopus bimaculoides. We found no evidence for hypothesized whole-genome duplications in the octopus lineage. The core developmental and neuronal gene repertoire of the octopus is broadly similar to that found across invertebrate bilaterians, except for massive expansions in two gene families previously thought to be uniquely enlarged in vertebrates: the protocadherins, which regulate neuronal development, and the C2H2 superfamily of zinc-finger transcription factors.
But the tentacle can be a sign of absolute alterity, the creature feature that man cannot translate into allegory or object lesson. This is what I call “tentacular pedagogy”: the teachable moment is that some things we encounter completely resist being translated into teachable moments.
Nature’s game of intimidation and imitation comes full circle in the waters of Indonesia, where scientists have recorded for the first time an association between the black-marble jawfish (Stalix cf. histrio) and the mimic octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus).
cephalopod visitor (via http://www.wallcoo.net/cartoon/Platinum_Conception_Studio_Pictures_01/html/wallpaper1.html)