Their Squishy Intellect, the Mimic Octopus and Cephalopod Ingenuity

The above videos are of the “Mimic Octopus”, which is capable of radically changing its apparent patterns of behavior to resemble those of the animals it mimes, and the celebrated coconut octopus, whose improvisational use of tools is at least on par with that of crows. Indeed, because of displays such as these ethicists interested in animal experimentation have classed cephelopods in a fairly exclusive domain along with dogs, though for many years it was doubted if they were even capable of feeling pain.

As molluscs, cephalopods are one of the closest things to “alien” intelligences on earth, yet the discovery of the giant nerve axon of  squid by John Z. Young in the 1930s was the first opportunity researchers had to understand the electrical activity of nerve cells in action, yet recent studies suggest that a sizable section of the processing power of their own nervous system is decentralized, being located in their many limbs. Though perhaps because of their intelligence, there are some unsettling aspects that often characterize the life of a cephalopod, specifically, cannibalism. The cannibalistic Humboldt squid are known to hunt in packs, using rapid changes in their skin colour to communicate and coordinate the pursuit of prey, and some species of octopi females eat males.

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