Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Master of Camouflage Stirs Things Up

Nothing quite compares to the octopus when it comes to camouflage. Over at Science Blogs, Greg Laden posted this amazing video. Like the man in the video, I had to watch the slow motion replay before I believed this wasn't some kind of trick of the film maker. Check this out!

Isn't that incredible? The common octopus uses a network of pigment cells and specialized muscles in it's skin to blend into its surroundings. It can assess its surroundings and change to blend in seconds so it can literally hide in plain sight. And the ink it ejects if spotted not only obscures the predator's view, but also dulls the predator's sense of smell so the octopus has a better chance of escape. But the octopus doesn't just rely on its camouflage to save it. It also has a wicked jaw that can deliver a vicious bite and venomous saliva to boot. And, as if that weren't enough, it possesses a keen intelligence.

Octopuses have long been thought of as the most intelligent of all the invertebrates, but recent studies by researchers like Jennifer Mather are proving that they are quite capable of problem solving, tool use, heck they even exhibit play behaviors. This ranks them right up there with the most intelligent beings on earth. In fact, they are causing quite a stir, since octopuses are asocial beings. So, proof of their intelligence sort of blows Nicholas Humphrey's social theory of intelligence out of the water. The original theory was expanded to argue animal intelligence by esteemed researchers like Jane Goodall, who posit that the need for intelligence in "higher mammals" like chimpanzees and elephants, for instance, is due to their social structures.

So, the octopus is stirring up the cognitive studies world and forcing researchers to rethink long-standing false assumptions, such as the notion that something must be human-like in some way, possess social skills and humanistic qualities, to have smarts. Not so much. Yet another reason for me to admire the octopus.

1 comment:

Andi said...

Well, as you know, Octopi are highly regarded over at Chez Andi. They are really amazing creatures.