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Clever octopus tentacles stuffed with neurons
Octopuses have large nervous systems, centered around relatively large brains. But more than half of their 500 million neurons are found in the arms themselves, Godfrey-Smith said. This raises the question of whether the arms have something like minds of their own. Though the question is controversial, there is some observational evidence indicating that it could be so, he said. When an octopus is in an unfamiliar tank with food in the middle, some arms seem to crowd into the corner seeking safety while others seem to pull the animal toward the food, Godfrey-Smith explained, as if the creature is literally of two minds about the situation.
There may be other explanations for the observations. But whatever the answer, it seems likely that octopus intelligence is quite different from that of humans and, as researchers ponder the broader meaning of intelligence, may be as different as is likely to be encountered, short of finding it on other planets.
The preserved octopus actually has the normal number of 8 appendages attached to its body, but each one branches out to form the multitude of extra tentacles. Apparently there is no theory that fully explains the surplus tentacles, but they are believed to be the result of abnormal regeneration that occurred after the octopus suffered some sort of injury.
Their most well-known specimen is an 85-tentacled Common Octopus captured in 1957 at nearby Toshijima island. This remarkable creature -- which, like the Shima Marineland octopus, has 8 main arms that branch out to form scores of tentacles -- made quite a stir when it first went on display at Toba Aquarium a half-century ago. A few years later, the specimen was loaned to the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, where it famously caught the attention of the Showa Emperor.