Oddly Octopus

By Joseph Miller | May 28, 2019

“Octopuses and their relatives (cuttlefish and squid) represent an island of mental complexity in the sea of invertebrate animals.” – Peter Godfrey, 2017.


Octopuses belong to a class of marine mollusks called cephalopods. They are soft bodied, eight-limbed organisms that can rapidly alter shape, enabling them to squeeze through small gaps just large enough for its only hard part, the beak, to pass. Even a large octopus can maneuver through a gap 1 inch wide.


These quirky cephalopods prefer to use their two rear appendages to walk along the sea floor, while the other six are used for forage and food. Some biologists refer to the animals as having six “arms” and two “legs.” The inner areas of the limbs are covered with adhesive suckers, allowing them to anchor itself or manipulate objects.


The unusual circulatory system of the octopus is closed, meaning the blood remains inside of vessels. They have three hearts: One circulates blood around the body and two pump blood through each of the two gills. When it is swimming, the systemic heart is inactive thus it tires quickly and prefers to crawl.


Their blood transports oxygen with the copper-rich protein haemocyanin. “This makes the blood very viscous and it requires considerable pressure to pump it round the body” (1). In cold conditions with low oxygen, haemocyanin transports oxygen more efficiently than haemoglobin.


In a 2015 study published in Frontiers in Zoology, researchers provided clear evidence that haemocyanin in octopuses undergoes functional changes to improve the supply of oxygen to tissue at sub-zero temperatures. To learn how hemocyanin helps octopods in cold water, researchers collected and analyzed the haemolymph from one Antarctic octopus and two from warmer climates. Among the three octopod species, the Antarctic octopus had the highest concentrations of haemocyanin in its blood—at least 40% more compared to the other species. At temperatures of 10C, the Antarctic octopus showed far greater potential to release far more oxygen (on average 76.7%) than the warm-water octopods. These findings show how haemocyanin supports oxygen in both cold and warm environments and explains why octopuses inhabit a wide range of ecological niches.


Octopuses show a remarkable capacity for sophisticated kinds of learning. They can open a screw-top jar from the outside and the inside, and employ strategic uses of objects like shells, coconut-halves, and stones.


In captivity, the octopus is famous for its unruly behavior. ‘Inky,’ for example, became famous after breaking out from the New Zealand National Aquarium in 2016. The evidence showed that Inky had forced himself through a gap at the top of his enclosure and travelled to a drain pipe and out to sea. At other institutions, octopuses have embarked on overnight raids to catch and eat fish in other tanks. One captive octopus learned to turn off electric lights by using its siphon to squirt water at them and short-circuit the power supply. In the wild, octopuses launch themselves onto land surprising unwary crabs.


The intelligence of the octopus is a lineal anomaly for evolutionists. This is because octopus are nowhere near primates on the evolutionary tree of life. Considering their short life-span (1-2 years), Harvard professor Peter Godfrey calls its braininess an evolutionary paradox— like “spending a vast amount of money to do a PhD, and then you’ve got two years to make use of it .. the accounting is really weird” (2).


An Octopus has approximately 500 million neurons, about the same number as a dog. Two thirds of the octopus neurons are in the limbs, and each limb has a “mind of its own.” A severed tentacle will grope around the seafloor even after being severed. Their sucker can taste and smell, and a detached limb will attempt to pass food to where the mouth would be.


The full biochemistry behind its ability to regenerate limbs is still a mystery. The process involves an “orchestrating” of multiple and “specific steps,” which occur in a biochemical ‘cascade.’ Each step is dependent on the one before it. Indeed, if any step is missing or faulty the entire repair fails. This marvelous system (which exists in anticipation of limb loss) leaves no room for ‘natural selection’ to ostensibly have favored the hypothetical intermediate stages.


Irreducible complexity is a huge challenge for the evolutionary theory.

The science behind the design features of the octopus are especially tantalizing for researchers in the area of biomimetics. Octopus suckers are much better than human-designed suction cups. Scientists believe this is because radial grooves in octopus suckers increase the area subject to pressure reduction during attachment. Using laser engraving of artificial suction cups, scientists tested various groove patterns for suction strength. The best sucker was the one most similar to the octopus morphology.


Many researchers are striving to understand and replicate the octopus arm, which holds possible medical applications and could lead to new developments in soft robot bodyware and soft actuators. With no bones or shell, the octopus arm is a muscular hydrostat. It is packed with muscle fibres arranged in transverse and longitudinal and oblique muscles. An octopus arm can bend in any direction along any point on the arm, and lengthen and shorten by up to 70%! Contractions of oblique muscles allow twisting. All these interwoven muscles work together to give the octopus the ability to deform its entire body and ‘pour’ itself into tight spaces.


While many scientists do not acknowledge the One who is responsible for designing the amazing octopus, they recognize that it is worthwhile to learn and ‘steal’ the technology of the agile octopus arm, its strong suction cups, and especially what enables the octopus to regrow its tentacles.


The stunning features of the octopus are perfectly designed by God and are more than sufficient for the octopus to survive in their given habitat. Some octopus species are even equipped with an extra measure of the blue-blood pigment heamocyanin, which enables them to adapt to cold or warm waters.


Their gooey looks, formidable brains, funny behavior, and amazing arm-repair system could only have been created by the Hand of One Master Engineer.


“O Lord, how manifold are your works! In Wisdom have you made them all” -Psalms 104:24.


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  1. Wikipedia. Octopus. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octopus.
  2. Catchpoole, David. “The Octopus: Intelligent, Evolution-Defying Master of Camouflage.” Creation magazine, vol. 41, no. 2, 2019. pp. 28-31.
  3. BioMed Central. “Blue blood on ice: How an Antarctic octopus survives the cold.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 March 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150310205703.htm>.


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