Study Suggests Octopuses Might Be ‘alien’
Study Suggests Octopuses might be ‘Alien’
Have you ever looked at an octopus and thought that it appeared alien? Well, you may not be too far off. A few scientists are now suggesting that the eight-legged sea creatures may, in fact, be from out of this world. We’ve long known that the octopus is among the most intelligent and behaviorally flexible of all invertebrates, even showing sophisticated problem-solving skills and the ability to use tools such as discarded ocean floor shells to perform tasks. With four pairs of arms dangling below a large head, leering eyes, incredible dexterity, and elusively darting propulsion abilities, the octopus certainly meets all of the sci-fi criteria for an alien being; but now researchers may have the DNA evidence to support the suspicions of those with wild imaginations.
The most recent map of the octopus genetic code has revealed that the first entire cephalopod genome sequence shows an astonishing level of complexity, with 33,000 protein-coding genes identified, which is more than are in a human being. In addition, octopus DNA is highly rearranged, containing “jumping genes” that can leap around the genome. This reshuffling process is a key characteristic of the genetic makeup and evolution of the octopus and, in most species, genes that perform related functions are typically close together on a double-helix. For example, Hox genes–which control body plan development–cluster together in most all animals except the octopus, where they are scattered throughout the octopus genome. If that wasn’t otherworldly enough, an analysis of 12 different tissues showed hundreds of octopus-specific genes found in no other animal, many of them pertaining to highly active structures in the octopus’s nerve-packed brain, flexible skin, and the menacing suckers found along those ferocious tentacles of ancient sea lore. The findings were published in the journal “Nature.”
Completely Unique DNA Structure
“The octopus appears to be utterly different from all other animals, even other mollusks, with its eight prehensile arms, its large brain and its clever problem-solving abilities,” said University of Chicago researcher, Dr. Clifton Ragsdale. “The late British zoologist Martin Wells said the octopus is an alien. In this sense, then, our paper describes the first sequenced genome from an alien.”
This begs the question, what exactly makes a creature an alien? Is it the fact that it germinated from a world beyond ours–which is the classic perception of an extraterrestrial being–or is it a vast difference in its genotypic and phenotypic make-up when compared to its fellow planetary beings?
It appears as if the octopus’s genome was “put into a blender and mixed”, said the study’s co-author Caroline Albertin.
Beyond that, some believe that octopuses may also have psychic abilities. Who could forget the famous octopus Paul, who gained media stardom after after correctly predicting 100 percent of the games he was tasked with determining during the 2010 FIFA World Cup? After correctly predicting the outcomes for all 6 of Germany’s matches, he also picked Spain to win the final against the Netherlands. Paul indicated which team would win by putting food into glass cases containing flags of the two opposing teams in a given match. That’s about all of the convincing needed by anyone who has ever filled out one of those confounding tournament brackets.
What do you think? Are octopuses alien? Were they left behind on earth by visiting extraterrestrials? Do they even have powers of extrasensory perception, or just lucky guessing skills? Join the discussion in the comments below or on Twitter using the hashtag #DMtalk.