Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Eight Armed Mind

What does the octopus know?
First, different individuals have different temperaments. Some are shy, some are bold; some are inquisitive, some aggressive. Because of this individuality, people who hang out with them, whether in the sea, at a public aquarium, or in the laboratory, tend to give them names—an honor normally reserved for mammals such as dolphins and chimpanzees. Cousteau spoke of an octopus called Octopissimus; one scientific paper I read referred to Albert, Bertram, and Charles.

Second, some octopuses will engage with you. They might reach out an arm and touch your hand. They will investigate an object you present to them, giving every impression of thinking about it as they do so. All the while, they will appear to watch you with their large, mobile eyes. Again, these are behaviors we associate with dolphins and dogs—but not with, say, fish, let alone animals such as sea urchins or clams.
It knows more than you think?

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