Octopus genome study reveals “alien” results

Scientists have cracked the octopus genome, and it’s unlike anything they’ve ever seen before.

The late British zoologist Martin Wells said the octopus is an alien. In this sense, then, our study describes the first sequenced genome from an alien,” explained Clifton Ragsdale from the University of Chicago.

“The octopus appears to be utterly different from all other animals, even other molluscs, with its eight prehensile arms, large brain and clever problem-solving capabilities.”

How so? Well, after sequencing the entire 2.7 billion ‘letters’ of the octopodes’ genetic code, they found that it has 33,000 unique genes. Humans, in contrast, have around 20-25,000.

These include 168 protocadherin genes used in the development of the nervous system and for interactions between neurons. Again, this makes the octopus a bit of a show-off, as it packs around ten times more than other invertebrates and twice as many as mammals.octopus_shells

In fact, many of these genes are brand new, according to Daniel Rokhsar who co-led the study. “We’ve found hundreds of novel genes that don’t have counterparts in other animals and may be involved in this unique camouflage process.”

We’ve known for a while that the octopus puts other animals to shame with its intelligence and unique talents. They can learn, solve puzzles, use tools and even take photos in New Zealand:

This one tried to make a daring escape from the Seattle Aquarium:

This one uses a coconut shell as a tool:

They can even open sealed containers:

And take down a shark in an aquarium:

Oh, and they’re pretty amazing at camouflage too:

In short, they’re smart, stealthy, capable of killing and have more genes than us. Sleep tight, aquarium staff.

Images via Feans and Silke Baron, used under Creative Commons

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