Why is the octopus so smart?


Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/12/03/why-is-the-octopus-so-smart.html


Intelligence as an evolutionary benefit has nothing to do with not being eaten. It’s all about surviving just long enough to mate and reproduce and by that measure, cephalopods seem to be doing fine.


fish oil supplements?


Maybe ask the Tarvuists, supposedly they can talk with octopi.



I think we lose nerd cred if someone doesn’t post this…


This seems to be a very strange thing to get hung up about. The premise of the article is that there are two sorts of evolution of intelligence - to find and keep food, and to develop social habits. And the octopus does not seem to fit either category, because they do not use their skills to catch food or for socializing. Scientists Are Baffled!

No, they aren’t. There is clearly a new category: evolving intelligence to avoid being eaten. Intelligence is handy in a general way to survive, and in particular survive against something that will adapt to any fixed strategy. Whales travel in groups, and can cooperate to defend their young against predators, but it seems likely the social bit may have come first. An octopus does not have a social side, so it has done things a bit differently. And the intelligence is a little different too.

Science reporting. Always good for a larf, eh?


In short, because evolution is just infinitely cool!


What makes this even more considerable is the lifespan of the various octopus species is only 1 to 5 years.


There’s a quirky notion which occasions the coffee machine in biology departments (and typically discounted by the louder voices) which goes: if you ‘free up’ an appendage from locomotion then brain bits will tend to specialize to use that appendage in creative ways. That is, first comes “the hand” then “the brain”. Here’s a counter argument: “How many examples of this do we have of this? primates and cephalopods …and maybe oh, raccoons”. And yet this interesting notion will crop up from time to time, and here i’ve done my part with my spare appendages.


The more specialized the field, the shittier the reporting (but science and law seem to have it worst in terms of the bad reporting being frequently widely distributed)


Elephants? But ostriches don’t seem to have done much with their freed-up wings, the shiftless buggers.


And whales have no appendages, effectively. Those that they have are still primarily used for movement.


They have a leg up on the competition.




Good work, I’m a sucker for a good pun.


They are biding their time, getting ready to take over, playing the long game…
Watch them. Watch them closely.


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