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Something strange is happening to the oceans. As coral reefs wither and fisheries collapse, octopuses are multiplying like mad. As soon as they perceive weakness, they will amass an army and invade the land, too. Okay, that last statement is probably pure paranoia. But it is a bit unsettling that cephalopods—squids, octopuses, cuttlefish—are booming, and scientists don’t know why. An analysis published today in Current Biology indicates that numerous species across the world’s oceans have increased in numbers since the 1950s.
So, why are cephalopods kicking butt when pretty much everything else in the oceans is dying? Doubleday and her co-authors are still investigating, but they suspect it has to do with rapid population turnover rates. “Cephalopods tend to boom and bust—they’re called the weeds of the sea,” Doubleday said. “If environmental conditions are good, they can rapidly exploit those conditions because they grow so fast.”
As soon as they perceive weakness, they will amass an army and invade the land, too.
Are octopuses smart?
Yes, but of course one has to ask what that means. I would say intelligence means learning information and using the information that you've learned.
So, how do you know they are smart?
We observed how octopuses figure out how to open clams and what sort of flexibility and variety they have. We give them clams and mussels in order to figure out which they like best. They are very strong, but we found they prefer mussels because mussels are easier to open. They switched to clams when we put the clams on a half shell. They clearly made a decision to go with what was easiest. We noticed along the way that yanking them open wasn't the only thing the octopuses could do to open them. They have a cartilaginous beak, which looks a lot like a parrot's beak, and they could chip at the edge of the clamshell and then they could inject poison and weaken the clam. Or they actually have a salivary papilla, and they can drill a hole to inject the toxin that way in the stronger clams. They were selective about what technique they would use with what species. We decided we would cheat on them: We took one of the easier ones and wired them shut. They switched techniques according to what would work best. Of course, this doesn't sound hard to you because you're a human, but most simple animals keep trying the same technique.