How does an octopus think?

Giant octopus at the Downtown Denver Aquarium

Octopods are the smartest molluscs. They are curious; they recognize people and have their likes and dislikes; and they remember who’s naughty and who’s nice. Here’s a story of personal interaction with an octopus.

The chambered nautilus isn’t protected?

Silly me. I would have thought that the unique biological status of the chambered nautilus as the irreplaceable last example of the shelled cephalopods that cruised the Devonian seas would have given it protection. I was wrong. Our penchant for making beautiful ornaments out of its murdered shells is soooo much more important! Loving the chambered nautilus to death. I mean, hell! There are all of six known populations.

Squid ancestor found

Nectocaris pteryx

Nectocaris pteryx, a Cambrian mollusc: See “Mother of all squid.”

Squid autograph

This is weird. PZ Myers, author of the most popular science blog in the world, is a biology professor who’s interested in evolutionary biology. His research, and that of his doctoral students, uses zebra fish, one of the common “lab rats” of development because of their short generations and transparent eggs. But in addition, he’s interested in those strange, highly developed molluscs called cephalopods: octopus and squids. He writes about them and posts images of them on his blog. So people started to send him octopus art, squid recipes, and even “tentacle porn”–don’t ask!

So now that he’s on sabbatical and doing a lecture tour in California, one admirer brought a fresh squid to be autographed. Naturally, the professor obliged.

Origami octopus by Joseph Wu

If anyone has a paper anniversary coming up, such as a year of blogging or a year since a creationist promised to “get back to you” about their debunked claim, one of Joseph Wu’s origami octopods might be the perfect gift—to themselves.

Cuttlefish sashimi (dolphin style)

ino_squidlegs-smHop over to The Science Pundit for a quick look at how dolphins prepare fresh, in fact very fresh, cuttlefish. They de-ink and de-bone it, which is pretty clever when they have no hands.

Octopus had Antarctic ancestors

Genetic analysis of octopodes indicates that they developed in the ocean around Antarctica. They spread out from that continent when an ice sheet covered it and created cold water currents in all directions to the north.

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) – Many octopuses evolved from a common ancestor that lived off Antarctica more than 30 million years ago, according to a “Census of Marine Life” that is seeking to map the oceans from microbes to whales.

The $650 million census is on track for completion in 2010, assessing about 230,000 known marine species, a statement said. It has identified 5,300 likely new species, of everything from fish or corals. So far, 110 have been confirmed as new.

Among the findings, genetic evidence showed that the tentacles of the octopus family pointed to an Antarctic ancestor for many deep sea species. A modern octopus called Adelieledone in Antarctica seemed the closest relative of the original.

Octopuses apparently spread around the world after Antarctica became covered with a continent-wide ice sheet more than 30 million years ago, a shift that helped create oxygen-rich ocean currents flowing north, a report said.

“Isolated in new habitat conditions, many different species evolved; some octopuses, for example, losing their defensive ink sacs — pointless at perpetually dark depths,” the census said.

Classification: Biota > Animalia (Kingdom) > Mollusca (Phylum) > Conchifera (Subphylum) > Cephalopoda (Class) > Coleoidea (Subclass) > Octopodiformes (Superorder) > Octopoda (Order) > Incirrata (Suborder) > Octopodoidea (Superfamily) > Octopodidae (Family) > Adelieledone Allcock et al., 20

Marine life: octopods and squids

It’s Cephalopod Appreciation Day!

Image from the U.S. Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

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