Octopodes are widely considered to be the most intelligent invertebrates on Earth. They possess a complex neural network that is unlike anything else seen in nature - their neurons are located partially in their brains and partially in their arms (each arm can operate on a rudimentary level independently of the rest of the octopus). They can recognize shapes both visually and tactilely, and have been shown to possess both short and long-term memory.
By all means, they have the capability to be some of the most intelligent animals known, if not for two inhibiting factors. Firstly, octopodes have extremely short lifespans. Even the hardiest giant octopus can only be expected to live five years. This short lifespan prevents them from building up the sort of mentality and structure that might otherwise be available to them. (For instance, imagine if humans only ever lived to be five years old. It is doubtful we would ever accomplish much.) Secondly, octopodes tend to live solitary lifestyles, which prevents them from establishing social organization or complex methods of inter-octopodal communication.
However, in recent years it has been discovered that some octopodes are breaking what has been the apparent norm for their order since the dawn of zoology.
For instance, the cephalopods of “Octopolis" have been living in harmony and, apparently, cooperation for at least four years now.
Additionally, and more recently, the rediscovery of the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus has brought with it a confirmation of the species’ long-suspected communal behaviour. This octopus is so unusual that when it was first described by Arcadio Rodaniche in 1991, it was dismissed by the larger marine biology community as a farce. It was only when living specimens were discovered again in 2013 that they were recognized by the scientific community.
The Larger Pacific Striped Octopus, rather than living an octo-typical solitary life, live in “associations of 40 or more animals”, and mating pairs seem to cohabitate, and even share dens with one another.
Another amazing quality of this ‘new’ species is that they are able to mate and brood young multiple times throughout their lives. Female octopodes typically die shortly after hatching their first brood of young, as they will literally look after their unhatched eggs until they starve to death. Female Larger Pacific Striped Octopodes, however, is able to survive multiple broodings in good health.
The implications of this are staggering. If octopodes - already one of the most intelligent creatures in the sea - are beginning to form previously unheard of social bonds, perhaps they will only continue develop new traits. Social existence tends to produce systems of communication and cooperation.
Imagine octopodes who are, in time, able to live longer and healthier lives due to living in communities that would enforce protection from predators and health of offspring. Imagine octopodes that are able to communicate ideas with one another. Even the ability to share the simplest signals such as ‘food’ or ‘danger’ would markedly increase the efficiency and health of a single octopus.
If this behaviour and reproductive ability proliferates and continues among communities like Octopolis and in species like the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus, the future of the order Octopoda can only get brighter.
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