Eight arms and a lot of brains: octopuses could be winners of climate change

Eight arms and a lot of brains
Octopuses could be winners of climate change

Octopuses are one of the most fascinating animal groups. They come in all sizes, shapes and colours. And while many animal species are threatened by climate change, octopuses may be able to cope better. This is also due to their powerful brain.

Whether a mysterious smoke thrower, a skilled grabber or a clever hunter, octopods fascinate researchers and laymen alike. This may also be due to the fact that they are among the most intelligent of the invertebrates. For example, with numerous suction cups on their eight arms, they can hold super prey. Or pull food from narrow vessels.

This ability made Paul the octopus from the Sealife Aquarium in Oberhausen famous during the 2010 World Cup. As an animal oracle, he correctly predicted all matches of the German team and the final. Paul was an Octopus vulgaris (common octopus). October 8 is dedicated to him and all other octopuses as World Octopus Day.

Octopods use their arms not only to grab prey, but also to move across the seabed. When they have to flee quickly, they also jerkily squeeze the water they breathe from their bodies and use the recoil. With the help of pigment cells (chormatophores), they can adapt their body color and pattern to their environment in the blink of an eye. As a defense strategy, they eject a cloud of ink from a gland when necessary to confuse enemies.

Highly customizable

Octopuses are loners and mainly eat crabs, mussels and crabs, which they break open with their sharp beaks. The mollusks have well-developed senses, have a powerful brain and are capable of learning. According to experts, octopus populations are currently not in fundamental danger. Marine biologist Henk-Jan Hoving of the Geomar Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research in Kiel explains that some cephalopods are relatively resistant to changing environmental conditions. “They are credited as one of the winners of climate change.” However, more research needs to be done to determine which species this applies to.

Not much is known about how climate change affects cephalopod (cephalopod) populations, Hoving explains. For some regions, it is hypothesized that octopods have replaced fish in the food web, whose populations are suffering from overfishing. “Cephalopods are opportunists and highly variable in terms of prey.” Therefore, if necessary, they could switch to different prey.

Researchers still know very little about the life of cephalopods in the deep sea. Hoving emphasizes that this habitat is the largest but least explored on Earth. Scientists aren’t just working to learn more about octopus life, though — they’re also taking the eight-armed all-rounders as models to create new things.

Underwater Glove Model

For example, a team from the US developed a glove based on the octopus arms that can be used to safely grip and hold objects underwater. Bartlett’s group reported in the journal Science Advances that his fingers were equipped with suction cups and tiny laser scanners that measure distances. This allowed objects of the most diverse shapes and materials to be reliably gripped in the water.

While there will be another FIFA World Cup soon, there probably won’t be a new Oberhausen octopus oracle as Paul’s successor. No such action is planned, according to Sealife.

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