Octopuses are aliens. I’ll let that claim sink in for a bit.
This statement was made by 33 researchers in a paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. That is their literal claim, that this eight-limbed mollusc is from out there in space. Since the paper was released, there has been an increase in news coverage with headlines about octopuses and their extraterrestrial origins. It does make a good story obviously.
Octopuses have always fascinated scientists because octopuses are highly intelligent, and the way octopuses perceive things and interact with the world around them differ greatly from the ways that evolve in intelligent vertebrates.
When an octopus coils one of its arms around a rock or a bit of food, it’s not because the animal’s brain said, “Pick that up.” Rather, the arm decides for itself what it’s going to do next. For a person, that would be like having one’s big toe call the shots about where they’re going to walk.Source: LiveScience
So how serious is this claim? Are these soft-bodied creatures really aliens?
It’s no surprise to many that these claims have been mocked by the scientific community, and have branded the paper – published in Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology – as ridiculous and unscientific.Source: Independent
These molluscs are closely related to snails (because snails are molluscs too) but far smarter. The researchers behind the paper lists certain attributes of the octopus and uses this list to justify their claim that octopuses are of extraterrestrial origins.
On top of their large brains and sophisticated nervous systems, the authors of the new paper list camera-like eyes, flexible bodies and ability to camouflage themselves by changing colour and shape as evidence of their extra-terrestrial origins.Source: Independent
So suddenly did these features appear in the octopus family tree that “it is plausible then to suggest they seem to be borrowed from a far distant ‘future’ in terms of terrestrial evolution, or more realistically from the cosmos at large,” the authors write.
“Such an extraterrestrial origin as an explanation of emergence of course runs counter to the prevailing dominant paradigm,” they continue. This is a strong contender for understatement of the century.
In the paper, this team of researchers suggested that the Cambrian explosion (the first period of the Paleozoic era, which is the era before the age of the dinosaurs) was the result of an alien intervention.
The paper asks whether this event, which saw the rapid emergence of most of the main animal groups that still exist on Earth today, was “terrestrial or cosmic”. Their conclusion is the latter.Source: Independent
The idea that they had was that alien viruses in a meteor crashed on Earth and infected the primitive squids which evolved them into octopuses. Another idea they had was that fertilised squid or octopus eggs came to Earth via a meteor.
TL;DR: Life on earth came from outerspace from space dust or asteroids.
The idea is essentially a reimagining of the “panspermia” hypothesis, which suggests that life on Earth was “seeded” by space dust or asteroids crashing into Earth. One of its first proponents, Chandra Wickramasinghe, is one of the authors of the new paper.Source: Independent
There are plenty of reasons for doubts to surface. First off, not one of the paper’s authors are zoologists, as pointed out by Mark Carnell, the curator of 150,000 specimens in Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
Much of the authors’ speculation rests on the idea that the genetics of octopuses and their relatives are mysterious – yet a 2015 paper published in Nature revealed the octopus genome, so this is rather disingenuous.
In fact, octopus genes suggest they fit into the generally understood theory of the evolution of life on Earth, and require no alien invasion. They are thought to have split from the squid lineage around 135 million years ago.Source: Independent
So are the aliens or not? According to some scientists, the paper cannot be taken seriously and there appears to be no evidence that suggests that octopuses are aliens.
Yet, octopuses are still useful in the journey of understanding alternative cognitive abilities. In an astrobiology conference, the findings on how an octopus’ nervous system works were presented on June 26, 2019.
An octopus’s arm movement begins far away from the brain, triggered by sensors in a groping arm sucker feeling around on the seafloor or in an aquarium. Each sucker contains tens of thousands of chemical and mechanical receptors; to put that into perspective, a human fingertip holds just a few hundred mechanical receptors, Sivitilli said.Source: LiveScience
Essentially, octopuses “outsource” computation about how to move their bodies, assigning those actions to local controls — ganglia — in each arm, rather than relying on the central brain to tell the arms what to do, Sivitilli said in the presentation.Source: LiveScience
“In a way, the octopus has sent its mind out into the environment to meet it halfway,” he added.
So if octopuses aren’t aliens, why are other scientists presenting about octopuses in an astrobiology conference?
According to Dominic Sivitilli, who is a graduate student in behavioral neuroscience and astrobiology, this gives an understanding of the diversity of cognition in the world, and maybe the universe. Octopuses are intelligent creatures and the understanding of how they process information can be an alternative model for understanding intelligence.
Octopus cognition could therefore serve as an important alternative model for understanding intelligence, and it could prepare experts for recognizing unusual expressions of intelligent life that originated on other worlds, Sivitilli said in the statement.Source: LiveScience
So, octopuses may not be aliens, but they can help us understand aliens. What do you think?