All The Reasons You Should Live In Fear Of An Octopus Apocalypse
Sure, we've all heard a lot about the zombie apocalypse by now. People seem to love thinking about how they might fare in the event of exanimated beings coming back to life. Bookstores are full of zombie survival guides, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even published guidelines for what to do in case of a zombie outbreak.
As it turns out, however, we may be preparing for the wrong scenario. Instead of spending so much time worrying about zombies, we should be more concerned with the potential of an octopus uprising. After all, as far as we know, zombies don't exist (yet), but octopus facts tell us the sea creatures are evolving every day. And they can be freaking scary - in fact, we have reasons to think that octopuses might be alien life-forms living in our oceans.
Zombies have remained the talk of the town for a while, but we should be keeping a wary eye on our seas instead of graveyards. The octopus apocalypse might be far scarier than any zombie revolution.
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Octopuses Can Walk On Land
For the most part, octopuses are stuck in the ocean while humans are safe on land, but this is not the full story. The Abdopus octopus of Australia can come to the surface to hunt, even moving from one tidal pool to another as it searches for prey.
The Abdopus is not the only octopus that people have spotted on dry land, either. Octopuses in aquariums have reportedly snuck out of their tanks at night to feed on fish from other tanks. In 2017, a baffling mystery occurred in Wales involving dozens of octopuses marching out of the ocean night after night, for no discernible reason.
Perhaps they were practicing for a forthcoming cephalopod incursion.
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An Octopus's Ability To Contort Means There's Nowhere To Hide
It is nearly impossible to hide from or even trap an octopus. Octopuses are boneless, meaning they can contort their bodies into all sorts of different shapes and sizes. The only hard structure in the body of an octopus is its beak.
This means an octopus can squeeze through just about any opening, including holes as small as its eye.
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Octopuses Can Edit Their RNA
Most animals evolve through mutations in their DNA, but cephalopods take a different approach. While their genome remains relatively static through generations, they instead use enzymes that allow them to edit their RNA to diversify their proteins and easily adapt. In fact, a study published in the Nucleic Acids Research journal in March 2020 confirmed the "longfin inshore squid are the first known animals that can edit messenger RNA outside the cell nucleus."
There is some evidence to suggest this was perhaps a conscious choice somewhere in their evolution. While this means octopuses and other cephalopods evolve more slowly than other animals, it does give them an unsettling level of control over their genetic adaptability that could be a significant advantage in the event of an octopus uprising. Until then, scientists are hoping to use this information to further improve genetic medicine.
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Octopuses Are Highly Intelligent
Octopuses aren't merely smart for invertebrates - they're smart in ways that we have previously only observed in animals like birds, mammals, and, of course, humans. Their large, complex brains involve folded lobes and possibly even lateralization, which was long thought to be something only found in the minds of vertebrates. Thus, they have the capacity to solve intricate problems - even ones they wouldn't normally encounter in the wild - store memory, experience curiosity, and perhaps display distinct personalities from one octopus to another.
Octopuses, when presented with different kinds of food sources, use a variety of techniques to get at their prey, suggesting that, if they set those big brains to it, they could potentially form equally complex plans to hunt human prey as well.
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Octopuses Know How To Find You
Besides complex, problem-solving brains, octopuses possess a staggering array of sensory inputs. The suction cups on their limbs are covered in chemoreceptors, allowing them to not only feel but also taste whatever they touch. What's more, these receptors are connected directly to neurons, meaning they can react to sensory input and control the motions of their limbs without any direct information from their brain.
The eyes of an octopus are also camera-like, much like a human's, though they likely developed through convergent evolution. Vertebrates and mollusks are thought to have diverged over a billion years ago, leaving humans "at least as closely related to shrimps, starfish, and earthworms as to octopuses," according to Discover magazine.
With such advanced sensory skills, it wouldn't be too tricky for an octopus to track their target - even if that mark were you.
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Octopuses Are Deceptively Complex
Generally speaking, humans like to think of Homo sapiens as the most complex creatures on the planet. We're smart, adaptable, and tend to see ourselves as the top of the proverbial food chain. In some ways, however, octopuses might have instead prevailed over us.
Humans have an estimated 20,000 protein-coding genes, while octopuses boast a whopping 33,000 - which may explain why they can do things like selectively edit their RNA.