Life is a miracle. Being alive is miraculous. For all our technologies scanning the immeasurably large space and heavenly bodies surrounding our planet, ours is still the only one containing live. And we humans are one of just a few creatures on it to be conscious of ourselves as well as the universe we inhabit...
While we're looking "out there" in search of new life, our own planet is still full of mysteries to unravel, one of which is a creature that's so alien that it might as well have come from "out there"; the octopus. I've written twice already about these enigmatic creatures, and I encourage you all to go back to those articles as well: Eight Legged Brains and Amazing Skin Art. Today I found a new documentary about this species with some new information. Well, new for me at least, and I hope for you as well, dear reader. Every time I read or hear about the octopus' magnificent features, it humbles me, and reminds me of how lucky we are to be privileged enough to have a lifetime on this remarkable planet of ours. I wonder if these eight legged squids, with nine brains and 500 million neurons, most of which are not in their head, are also aware of how miraculous life really is.
I say that because we're talking about highly intelligent creatures, but with an intelligence that's radically different from our own. Like I said; they have nine brains, one in their pronounced head, and one in each of their tentacles, allowing for highly sophisticated movement, touch, smell and taste in each of them. We've experimented on them and we know that they're capable of reasoning and problem-solving, as well as being able to teach others of their kind what they've learned. The below linked documentary offers one plausible cause for this highly evolved intelligence. They evolved from invertebrates with hard shells, but lost the shell some 140 million years ago, making them highly vulnerable, and that vulnerability might have necessitated the evolution of the intelligence we can now witness. This intelligence shows when the octopus uses its remarkable camouflage capabilities. They can manipulate the color, patterns and texture of their skin in a literal blink of an eye to completely match their surrounding. A researcher once saw an octopus change its camouflage 177 times in one hour. When you see the explanation of how the octopus uses a combination of two layers of different reflective cells, one layer of colored cells and a top layer that changes the texture, and learn that it is essentially color-blind, you begin to appreciate the unique intelligence behind the octopus' capabilities.
One of the most remarkable behaviors and signs of an intelligence capable of planning, is the octopus' use of two half coconut-shells it carries with it to use as protection; it lost its own shell 140 million years ago and can now replace that by clever use of objects. Much like we lost most of our body-hair and have replaced that with clothes. The octopus is as close as we'll get to witnessing an alien life-form as long as we haven't found life "out there". Not truly alien, but so far removed from our own habitat and so radically different from our own intelligence that they make us think about the very nature of intelligence itself, and give us a glimpse of how intelligent life completely different from us could evolve. Like I said: read the two previous articles, watch the videos in them and watch the below linked documentary, and I assure you, you'll temporarily forget about your earthly and mundane concerns. This one is only 20 minutes long and most assuredly worth your while...
The Insane Biology of: The Octopus
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