Octopuses: "They're aliens alive on our planet and it feels like they have plans.” This handout photo provided by Roy L. Caldwell shows a LPSO male A15 canteleve large Pacific striped octopus about to catch a shrimp. Shifting shapes, sporting mesmerizing eyes, and showing uncanny intelligence, the octopus already is an oddball of the ocean. Now biologists have re-discovered a species of that sea creature that shares some of our social and mating habits. (Roy L. Caldwell via AP)
Octopuses: "They're aliens alive on our planet and it feels like they have plans.”
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The octopus is already an oddball of the ocean. Now biologists have rediscovered a species of that eight-arm sea creature that is even stranger and shares some of our habits.
 
With their shifting shapes, mesmerizing eyes and uncanny intelligence, octopuses "are one of the most mysterious and captivating species," said Rich Ross. He is a senior biologist at the California Academy of Sciences. "They are aliens alive on our planet and it feels like they have plans."
 
For Ross and colleagues, it got stranger. That is when they got a batch of octopuses from Central America to study. The critters just did not fit the loner denizen-of-the-deep profile that scientists had drawn for the rest of the 300 or so octopus species.
 
Most octopuses live alone. But couples of this species can live together to mate for a few days in the same cramped den or shell.
 
While other females lay one batch of eggs and then die, the female of this species lives longer. It produces eggs constantly. That improves the species' chance of survival, Ross said.
 
But there is more to the species. These octopuses clean out food waste from their dens. They twirl their arms like an old-timey movie villain with a moustache. And they quickly learn that people mean food. When someone enters the room, they leave their dens and head to the top of the tank.
 
"It is the most amazing octopus that I have ever gotten to work with," Ross said.
 
The octopus, normally a dull chocolate brown, suddenly sports stripes and spots when it gets excited or upset. That is according to Roy Caldwell of the University of California, Berkeley. He is the lead author of a paper on the octopus. Ross and others published it in the journal PLOS One.
 
The species is preliminarily called the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus. It is really not much bigger than a tennis ball. It is just bigger than a similar species.
 
It was found almost 40 years ago off the coast of Panama. Other scientists would not believe it was a separate species or that it showed such distinctive behavior. So its discoverer, Arcadio Rodaniche, gave up and the species was never formally described or named.
 
Then in 2011, Caldwell got an email from a high school student about his pet octopus, Charlie. It was the same species discovered in the 1970s. Caldwell traced it to a dealer who sent him two-dozen of the species to study. They came from Panama, Nicaragua and Mexico. The researchers note that this octopus species could act differently in the wild.
 
They included Rodaniche as a co-author after the retired researcher declined to let them name the octopus species after him.
 
In the journal Nature, a different team of scientists published the first map decoding octopus genes. They found the octopus's genetic code is only slightly smaller than humans. But it is twice as big as a bird's genetic instruction guide.
 
Octopuses are invertebrates, meaning they have no backbones. Invertebrates generally have less evolved nervous systems. But not the octopus. They found that it had many of the same genes as other invertebrates, although mixed up as through a blender, said study author Clifton Ragsdale at the University of Chicago.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why might this same species act differently in the wild?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (87)
  • kristablount-har
    8/19/2015 - 12:21 p.m.

    The species acts differently in the wild because they are treated differently. In the wild they catch their own food meaning they can be more aggressive. In the wild more dangers lurk around and try to kill the octopus. In captivity they have no threats because they are in a clear glass tank.

  • jamariuswillis-har
    8/19/2015 - 12:22 p.m.

    some of then dont have backbones

  • neilfalls-har
    8/19/2015 - 12:22 p.m.

    They might act differently, because they wouldn't know how to survive. They might also eat whatever is in their path.

  • loganfinch-har
    8/19/2015 - 12:35 p.m.

    what do you mean no backbone I did not know that. but how would they be aliens?

  • brettellis-har
    8/19/2015 - 12:57 p.m.

    because in the wild the spices has more food or clams to eat and they also have more water to move in other then the captivated ones.

  • masonb-ver
    8/19/2015 - 01:27 p.m.

    Octopuses are invertebrates.

  • nickh-ver
    8/19/2015 - 01:28 p.m.

    Cool

  • aubreymccabe-har
    8/19/2015 - 02:03 p.m.

    they could have been treated a little differently or adapted differently... causing them to be, well.. different.

  • evaneifling-har
    8/19/2015 - 02:04 p.m.

    I knew that they were very smart creatures/aliens but I never knew that they were that intelligent. It doesn't really surprise me though, they can open a jar and they can do a lot of tricks. It is amazing what some animals can do!

  • jairahouston-har
    8/19/2015 - 02:04 p.m.

    very interesting

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