It’s hardly news there are smart animals out there, whether brainy border collies, clever parrots, or near-relatives like chimpanzees. What these and other smart animals have in common is that they’re vertebrates. Invertebrates — insects, lobsters, earthworms, and the like — hardly even have anything we could call a brain.
There is a remarkable exception: the octopus. As octopus enthusiast Peter Godfrey-Smith wrote in Scientific American: “Octopuses and their relatives (cuttlefish and squid) represent an island of mental complexity in the sea of invertebrate animals. Since my first encounters with these creatures about a decade ago, I have been intrigued by the powerful sense of engagement that is possible when interacting with them.”
One really strange thing about the octopus is that its “brain” is distributed throughout its body. Cut off an octopus’ tentacle and the severed limb will still feel around for food and if it finds something, it will try to pass it to the place the octopus’ mouth would normally be. The octopus nervous system evolved separately from ours and ended up being very different!
A family vacationing at the Red Sea got a wonderful first-hand opportunity to see octopus intelligence in action. Walking along the beach, they saw something lying there on the sand. When they got closer, they saw it was a stranded octopus. They couldn’t tell if it was alive, but put it in the water, just in case. The next day, at the same beach, they saw the shadow of something moving in the water. It was the same octopus. “He recognized us! He accompanied us a long time while we walked along the beach, all the time tried to touch our feet. We are sure that this octopus came back to thank us for saving his life. It’s amazing how intelligent animals are.” They’ve named the creature Kurt and have also vowed never to eat octopus again!
Check out the video posted below to see Kurt expressing his gratitude. Did you have any idea how intelligent octopus are? Let us know in the Facebook comments and be sure to like and share!