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Why are octopuses so alien alike?

Why are octopuses so alien alike? 1

The television series anthology Twilight Zone, appeared on the CBS channel from 1959 to 1964. Each episode is a separate story, the characters of which are included in the so-called “Twilight Zone”, faced with an unexpected ending and morality. 

Last year, a remake of the cult series took place, and soon the second season arrived, one of the series of which tells about a team of scientists studying new types of deep-sea octopuses. The squid and octopus populations, according to the plot, have grown to incredible proportions due to climate change. 

As a result, researchers came across an intellectually developed life form unknown to science. And you know what is the most amazing thing in this whole story? The octopuses are actually so strange that their tentacles are at the same time their “brain.” But that is far from all. We tell that science knows about cephalopods.

Why are octopuses so alien alike? 2
Scene from the series “Twilight Zone”, second season, 2020

What does science know about octopuses?

When an octopus wraps a stone or a piece of food around one of its flexible tentacles, this is not because the animal’s brain says, “take it.” Rather, the tentacle, as it were, “decides” what to do next. It is as if the big toe of your left foot determined where to go. The nervous system of cephalopods is not arranged like in humans, and not like in other vertebrates. But from which part of the body does the central brain pass orders to everyone else?

In fact, the limbs of an octopus are dotted with concentrations of neurons called ganglia. With the help of ganglia, these “tentacle brains” can work independently of the central brain of octopuses. Scientists who recently managed to visualize the movement in the tentacles of an octopus, found that the central brain of the animal was practically not involved.

The team presented their results on June 26, 2019 during a scientific conference on astrobiology. Researchers used a camera and animal tracking software to simulate how an octopus perceives and then processes environmental information with tentacles, Livescience writes.

Why are octopuses so alien alike? 3
Did you know that Squid has a very large brain. Scientists believe that they are the most intelligent of mollusks

Modern technology allows researchers to learn how sensory information integrates into the neural network of a mollusk when an animal makes complex decisions. The movement of the octopus tentacles begins far from the brain, and is caused by the suction cups (sensors) in the tentacles that examine the seabed or aquarium. Each suction cup contains tens of thousands of chemical and mechanical receptors; For comparison, the tip of a person’s finger contains only a few hundred mechanical receptors.

When an octopus touches something interesting, the “brain” in its tentacles processes the information coming from outside and moves the signal further, indicating to the hand what to do. 

The researchers found that the signals generated by one suction cup are transmitted to its closest neighbor, activating the muscles of the tentacles and generating a wide wave of movement that moves up the body. While the tentacles of the octopus actively interact with the environment – and with each other – the signal that reaches the central brain of the animal is “strongly abstracted” and is not directly involved in the interaction of “hands”.

Why are octopuses so alien alike? 4
The twilight zone series is not as crazy as it might seem at first glance. Great science fiction

In fact, octopuses “outsource” calculations about how to control the body, assigning certain actions to the local governing bodies – the ganglia that are in each tentacle. In a sense, octopuses send their minds to explore the environment to understand what is happening around halfway. This is all very entertaining, but for what reason do scientists talk about octopuses at an astrobiological conference? What does this have to do with extraterrestrial life? 

It is believed that octopuses have high intelligence, but the ways of perceiving the world around and interacting with it are very different from the methods that developed in intelligent vertebrates. 

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Thus, the abilities of these cephalopods can serve as an important alternative model for understanding intelligence, and can prepare experts to recognize the unusual manifestations of intelligent life that has arisen in other worlds. This gives researchers an idea of ​​the diversity of knowledge in the world. And perhaps in the universe. How do you think octopuses are reasonable? 

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