The Beacon

The Cleverest Cephalopod?

As we've noted in our creature corner, and as Carl Zimmer discusses in today's in-depth Slate story, the Octopus is not your average marine invertebrate. It's an Ivy League invertebrate. Well, sort of.

The eight-tentacled wonder may possess both long- and short-term memory, and they appear to be able to learn. And while we can't truly compare human and octo-intelligence, Octopuses would win the seafloor's geography bee, it seems.

Zimmer tells of one experiment where octopuses were placed in tanks with an assortment of landmarks. It took only a few trials for the octopuses to find the quickest route to a hidden exit in the bottom of the tank.

Plus, they do this nifty thing dubbed the moving-rock trick: "An octopus morphs into the shape of a rock and then inches across an open space. Even though it's in plain view, predators don't attack it. They can't detect its motion because the octopus matches its speed to the motion of the light in the surrounding water."

Pretty clever, eh?


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