We have long known that the octopus is an exquisitely rare creature. Its complex behavior patterns, and often shocking adaptability, suggest at least a rudimentary form of cunning. . . . Certainly far more intelligence — than any other invertebrate.
They can open jars, and squeeze their entire bodies through a hole no larger than their eye socket [eye size is a limiting variable it seems; it cannot be collapsed].
But just this past Thursday, in the journal Nature, a late-breaking study suggests they may be doing something significantly more astounding. They may be editing their own messenger RNA — in near real time — as water temperature rises, for example. Adapting their DNA at the protein level, in moments (or days), not generations.
To be clear, that last bit hasn’t been proven yet — but it seems a logical supposition, from this latest data. Do go read a nice lay-person’s leveled take on it all — in The New York Times, this Sunday morning:
. . . .Scientists say coleoid cephalopods, a group encompassing octopuses, squid and cuttlefish, make much more extensive use of RNA editing than other marine and land animals. . . . and do so quite rapidly.
[Scientists] found that coleoids have tens of thousands of so-called recoding sites, where RNA editing results in a protein different from what was initially encoded by DNA. When they applied the same methods to two less sophisticated mollusks — a nautilus and a sea slug — they found that RNA editing levels were orders of magnitude lower. Next, the researchers compared RNA recoding sites between the octopuses, squid and cuttlefish species and found that they shared tens of thousands of these sites to varying degrees. By comparison, humans and mice share only about 40 recoding sites, even though they are hundreds of millions of years closer in evolution than octopuses and squids. . . .
Trivia: In “date-speak“, an octopus is someone who — by sheer force of “tentacle reach” — blocks out all other possible thoughts. Becomes the all-consuming fore-brain occupant (by outright ownership, or lease). Is. . . the sun, the moon and the stars. . . .
And yet, we are quite smitten with such creatures. They thrill us, in fact. So here’s to the octopus, at right! Onward with an ear to ear grin, then. . . .