A fish won’t stare at you, but an octopus will. They will watch you, with their human-like camera eyes, as much as you watch them. They are the smartest animal that has remained in the sea, the only invertebrate – animals with no backbone – with a large brain. Though very early in evolution, they have as many neurons as a dog.
Octopus are hunters and predators, but without much physical defense. Unlike their mollusk ancestors, they did not retain their shells. They can ink the water to escape, and do instantaneous camouflage, and a few are poisonous, but mostly they are mobile, and smart, brains over braun. Two thirds of their brain cells are in their eight arms. They can squeeze thru an opening as small as one of their eyes.
They are brains that swim.
Their squishy bodies, with no hard parts, are pure tasty, and quick, digestible meat. They are hunted by all the predators of the sea. Their life span is short, they die shortly after breeding just once. Life is risky, they go for broke.
They are ingenious at escape, and always try. They have been known to open a jar . . . from the inside . . . to get free. They seem able to recognize particular individual humans. When they escape, they are uncanny picking the moment you aren’t watching them.
“When you work with fish, they have no idea they are in a tank, somewhere unnatural. With octopuses it is totally different. They know they are inside this special place, and you are outside it. All their behaviors are affected by their awareness of captivity.” Peter Godfrey-Smith
They have been found to have perceptual constancy – they understand an object is the same object, from different points of view. They have comparative memory analysis – they can bring past experiences to bear on present situations and decisions . They can navigate maizes. They have curiosity. They will interact with something, even when they know they can’t eat it. They do step by step action, like other animals with consciousness.
They are not very social, but divers have known then to ‘high five’ each other . . . !
They have three hearts and blue green blood.
We are not just consciousness, but also are self-consciousness, we have awareness of ourselves along side our awareness of the world, the eerie sense of two-ness that haunts us. We sense that in them.
“Meeting an octopus, is, in many ways, the closest we are likely to get to meeting an intelligent alien.” Peter Godfrey-Smith
They may BE alien. Scientists have very recently decided that since their genetics and intelligence are so much a leap from their origins that some of their DNA, literally, may have come from outer space.
“the genome of the Octopus shows a staggering level of complexity, with 33,000 protein-coding genes more than is present in Homo Sapiens. . . the possibility that cryopreserved octopus eggs arrived in icy bolides [in meteors] several hundred million years ago should not be discounted, as that would be a parsimonious cosmic explanation for the Octopus’ sudden emergence on Earth circa 270 million years ago.” Steele, et. al. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, March 2018.