Tentacle Surge


It’s happening:

… since the 1960s, cephalopods numbers have been increasing. […] There had been anecdotal murmurs about such an upward trend before, but [Zoe] Doubleday’s data threw it into stark relief. The rise was obvious when the team analyzed data from both fisheries and other sources. It was there in both northern and southern hemispheres. It applied to species that stick to the same patch of ocean ocean floor, those that swim in the water layer just above the bottom, and those that patrol large stretches of open ocean. And it applied to every major group of cephalopod: For the most part, cuttlefish are doing well, squid are on the up, and octopuses are ascendant. […] “You wouldn’t have expected to see the same trend across these different groups,” says [Bronwyn] Gillanders. “It does potentially suggest that a large-scale, global phenomenon is affecting all of them.”

Underlinings (#21)

Into the cephalopodean genome:

Surprisingly, the octopus genome turned out to be almost as large as a human’s and to contain a greater number of protein-coding genes — some 33,000, compared with fewer than 25,000 in Homo sapiens. […] This excess results mostly from the expansion of a few specific gene families … One of the most remarkable gene groups is the protocadherins, which regulate the development of neurons and the short-range interactions between them. The octopus has 168 of these genes — more than twice as many as mammals. This resonates with the creature’s unusually large brain and the organ’s even-stranger anatomy. Of the octopus’s half a billion neurons — six times the number in a mouse — two-thirds spill out from its head through its arms, without the involvement of long-range fibres such as those in vertebrate spinal cords. The independent computing power of the arms, which can execute cognitive tasks even when dismembered, have made octopuses an object of study for neurobiologists such as Hochner and for roboticists who are collaborating on the development of soft, flexible robots.

(Octopus camouflage (video))