This article is brought to you by audible, so in Monday’s article, I kind of started off with a weird rant about air pressure and sci-fi movies and how they never really account for air pressure because they just land on planets and air pressure Is always just fine and it was weird and in random – and I just wanted to take a moment before I started this article to totally double down on that, because you know something else that I always say in sci-fi movies.
It drives me nuts, is that alien species always look just like us. Okay, maybe not just like us, but you know, built in the same way bilateral symmetry. Two arms two legs a face with a bunch of holes in it I mean think about how many different combinations you can make just out of those parameters.
I mean who says that the arms have to be at the top of the body who says that the mouth has to be below the eyes. I mean just look at the variety of life that sprung up on this one planet, all the different form factors that came up with the specific conditions that we have here and then you think you’re gon na travel, the galaxy and see planets With different gravities different temperatures, different radiation levels, different atmospheric compositions and the only thing that’s, gon na be different about them.
Is they’re gon na have pointy ears or wrinkled foreheads? And you really think if they visit here, that the only thing that’s gon na be different about them, is that they’re gon na be bald and short and still never figured out clothes.
If for when, we ever discover intelligent alien life, it’s, gon na look and sound so different from us. We’re, not even gon na know what we’re. Looking at that’s, why the movie arrival is so great like that’s.
What it would be like just to understand them would be a Herculean effort and look I get why sci-fi movies and TV shows do it like that you want to be able to empathize with the aliens and identify with them.
You want them to be able to express themselves in ways that we can understand the best way to do that is to have them look at least a little bit like us, and you know shows like Star Trek or just thinly veiled examinations of our own society.
Anyway, and not to mention just budget wise, it’s, a lot cheaper to just put some prosthetic makeup on an actor instead of rigging up some monstrous thing. I get it, but that’s. Just one of the many reasons that I love the movie Galaxy Quest, you know because they were able to have it both ways.
They have these thermians, that they look just like us, but then it & # 39. S actually revealed that they’re. Actually, weird tentacles slimy creatures, but they disguise themselves to look like us, so they wouldn’t scare, us smort, but then how they not understand the concept of lying when they literally are lying about.
What look like the point is: nothing screams, alien and none of this earth more than tentacles, and yet there’s, an entire class of animals right here on this planet that have exactly that morphology, very intelligent animals, no less! That seemed to evolve completely differently from all the other animals on the planet, so much so that some people believe they could actually be aliens from Earth from the dawn of time is a super lame way to start talking about something that’s? Actually, one of the ways that I know that somebody’s, an amateur is when they start a article or an essay or a presentation with from the dawn of time it’s.
It’s, just something that only newbies do and they all do it. It ain’t. No, judging I’ve done it. You know you & # 39. Ve done it, but to talk about cephalopods, you really do kind of have to go back all the way to the beginning, maybe not the dawn of time, but definitely the dawn of life on this earth, which they call epigenesis merriam-webster defines epigenesis as the development of A plant or animal from an egg or spore through a series of processes in which unorganized cell masses differentiate into organs and organ systems when it comes to evolution, organisms that are related to each other often share a lot of the same DNA because they come from A similar common ancestor, but an octopus or cephalopod, is different because they actually have hundreds of genes that don’t come from any other animals.
How could this have happened? Could cephalopods have actually evolved at a different time than all the other animals? Could they actually be from another planet? In 2015? Some scientists suggested exactly that in a study that they published in a press release co-signor Arthur Clifton Ragsdale said the octopus appears to be utterly different from all other animals, even other mollusks in its 8 prehensile arms.
The large brain and it’s, clever problem-solving capabilities. The late British zoologist Martin Wells said the octopus is an alien in this sense, then our paper describes the first sequence genome from an alien and, of course, that was just the kind of clickbait material that many media outlets.
Couldn’t resist, throwing on their headlines and it didn’t help when a paper published in 2018 suggested that some of the life on Earth may have been seeded from life that was brought to Earth by comets living organisms such as Space resistant and space, hardy bacteria viruses and more complex, eukaryotic cells, fertilized OVA and seeds may have been continuously delivered to earth and served as one important driver of further terrestrial evolution, which has resulted in considerable genetic diversity in which has led to the emergence of mankind.
Now there’s, a lot of cracks in this theory, but before we get into that, let’s. Just talk about cephalopods for a minute and why they’re considered so otherworldly to us cephalopods are some of the artists.
Most ancient creatures they first showed up in the fossil record 485 million years ago and for contrast, dinosaurs only showed up 250 million years ago. The name cephalopod means head foot in Greek because it looks like a head on a foot.
Greeks had weird feet. So what makes a cephalopod a cephalopod well for one thing: they don’t have any bones like at all, so there’s, that the only heart structure on their bodies is their beak, which they use to crush up food.
So they can squeeze themselves in pretty much any space as wide as their beaks, which is how a Giant Pacific octopus, that spans more than three meters can squeeze through a hole as small as a quarter, because they live in the ocean floor and withstand enormous pressures.
Tens of thousands of pounds per square inch they just don’t need bones: bones. Probably couldn’t handle that pressure anyway, and if you ask people how many tentacles in octopus has about a hundred percent of them would say eight I mean it’s right there in the name, octopus, but that would be wrong because Technically octopuses don’t have any tentacles.
They have arms, gotcha yeah great. I’m one of those youtubers. Now what’s, the difference? Well, arms have suction cups. The whole length of the limb tentacles only has suction cups. At the end of the limb to grab prey and octopuses generally don’t have tentacles, they just have arms other cephalopods.
Do, though, cephalopods also move by inflating their heads with water and then shooting it out with a jet to move forward? They’re. The only animals have moved through propulsion, with the exception of my dog Zoey when she farts she just flies right off the bed and if they don & # 39, t sound alien enough, yet they actually have blue blood seriously.
I mean just just make it acid and get it over with now. Their blood uses, copper to move oxygen around the same way, our blood uses iron and that copper and their blood kind of turns it. A blue color.
There are four types of cephalopods, octopus, squid, cuttlefish and Nautilus, while they all belong to the same phylum Mollusca. There are similarities and slight differences among them. The octopus has eight arms, no tentacles and three hearts and there are approximately 300 different types of octopus in the ocean.
Squid have eight arms and two long tentacles like with the octopus. There are more than 300 types of them oceans around the world and they use the tentacles to grab prey. Cup of fish also have eight arms and two tentacles, and they have a very large brain compared to their body.
Size and Annihilus can have up to 90 or more arms, but they have no suction cups on them and there are six different types and they can’t retract into their external shells compared to octopuses. They don’t have very good memories.
By the way the plural of octopus is octopuses and not octopi, which means that I’ve, been saying it wrong for a really really long time. Yeah at one point, the grammar police did change. It to octopi, but then they realized that that’s.
A Latin conjugation and octopus is a Greek word. So technically they wanted to keep it in the Greek style. It would be octo pota, but by this point they decided that octopus was an English word, so they just applied the English plural conjugation to it, which makes it octopuses.
So that’s, something you know now, but speaking of ancient Greeks, Aristotle wrote about cephalopods all the way back in 330 ad. He was impressed by the way they could investigate their environments and learn from their mistakes in the past and change color.
But yeah let’s. Talk about the color, changing thing, real, quick because of all the weird things about cephalopods. This one takes the cake because they don’t just use it to disguise themselves for both hunting and to avoid predators, but they also use it for communication.
For example, the mail Caribbean reef squid will change colors to attract mates. They’ll turn red to attract females, no turn white to repel other males, and sometimes they can split themselves right down the middle so that the side facing the female will be red and the side facing a male will be white.
The Humboldt squid has been seen to change its color when around other squid to communicate to them. We just don’t know what they’re saying, but the cowfish beats them all, because it actually uses its color-changing ability to hypnotize its prey, which is just straight up next level.
But beyond that, they seem to actually have like a visual language that they communicate through their skin. Like imagine how efficient we would be if we could convey complex ideas without actually having to use words, we could just flash that idea at somebody through our skin.
That’s, basically what they do, and they do this with chromatophores color-changing cells, under the surface of the skin nerves and muscles expand or contract sacs, underneath the skin to control how much color is visible.
So imagine they have millions of cells like this, covering their bodies. Only every cell has multiple colors of pigment inside of them like black orange brown or yellow. By the way, I did run into an interesting demonstration as to how exactly these chroma fours work using this.
Not as weird as it looks so all this is basically is a white balloon and inside of it I & # 39. Ve got a little bit of blue pigment, so basically the way chroma fours work is when the skin is at regular strength is not being stretched or anything.
It looks white, but then you stretch it you little pop of blue, because the surface is now thinner and you can see through it and see the pigment underneath. So this is basically the way chroma fours work.
Is they flash it like this except the difference? Is there’s, millions of them all over their bodies and each one of these can create multiple different colors? So you can imagine this works kind of the same way.
The pixels work in a TV where you have the red, blue and green pixels, and they light up according to where it needs to to create the whole. You know image on the screen, except in an octopus. Every single pixel can display multiple colors and some cephalopods have added cells called a ridah fours and Luka fours.
A ridah fours are reflecting plates of cells that create iridescent blue Silver’s. Greens and golds and Luca fours are cells that reflect the colors. The environment around them, but that’s, not the only trick they’ve got up there, eight sleeves, they can also change the texture of their skin, using structures on the skin called papillae.
These radiate out from a central spot and a sort of a spider web pattern and when they contract, they pull the skin up into little pointy spikes and even branching structures. So think about that, for a second think about the jumble of nerves that are required to organize and manage millions of chromatophores thousands of these papillae, not to mention just basic touch and movement, but also a sense of taste because they can taste with those suckers their Arms and tentacles are packed with so many nerves that three-fifths of the neurons and an octopus’s.
Body are in its arms, so each arm is kind of like its own separate brain and works independently of each other, while coordinated by the central brain. So octopuses don’t just have a brain, they have a hierarchy of brains and the end result of this weird structure is one of the most intelligent animals on the planet.
There are countless stories of how they find novel ways of escaping enclosures and problem solving using tools recognizing faces and even playing. Some are suggested that they should be considered conscious, just like us only.
They have a kind of intelligence that we can’t even conceptualize, which kind of brings me back to the central question of this. Article cephalopods clearly had an intelligence evolution that was way different from any other animal on the planet.
But the question is: how different could they actually be aliens from another planet? That 20-18 study I mentioned before didn’t actually suggest that cephalopods or any species on this planet are actually alien.
It kind of suggested that viruses could have been carried on comets and landed here on earth, and those viruses may have accelerated the mutation of genetic material and actually created the Cambrian explosion.
The Cambrian explosion refers to the Cambrian era, which began about 541 million years ago. Basically, all life before this point was very simple: just colonies of cells within a period about 25 million years it evolved into complex organisms that were the precursors to everything around us today, so that viruses on comets theory, which I have to say, has been mostly panned By the scientific community, wouldn’t account for cephalopods specifically, and even if it did it, wouldn’t make them alien necessarily, but what if they were aliens from Earth? I talked to the beginning this article about epigenesis the idea that life was created by the random collision of organic molecules over time, life that eventually evolved into more complex organisms, including Luca Luca, being the last Universal common ancestor.
The organism that all the plants and animals on this planet can trace their lineage back to this is how we understand that life began on this planet, but the planet is big and it & # 39. S been around for a really long time.
So could life have started twice? Could cephalopods or any other animal for that matter, be the product of a second epigenesis? There are many scientists. I think this is not totally implausible that life might have started not just once or twice, but several times throughout Earth’s history now this does require a more broad definition of life to include molecular machines that replicate themselves like DNA or, more specifically, Rna according to Cambridge, professor, Philip Hollinger biology, has a memory.
Chemistry does not to me. The origin of life is really the origin of information and in May of 2016 a team of biomolecular chemists in Germany were able to recreate the building blocks of RNA using very basic lab stuff conditions in the early earth, and they did it pretty easily.
In other, experiments from the University of Colorado in Boulder were able to replicate a strand of DNA by combining it in a slurry of RNA bases that formed a replica using the first one as a template.
Now we’re, still a long way from a living cell dividing and going on to form everything, but in the primordial soup of Earth over billions of years. The idea that this could happen more than once isn’t too crazy, but the likelihood that one of those led to cephalopods is actually impossible because we & # 39.
Ve, looked at the DNA and, while yes, octopuses have hundreds of genes that you don’t find in any other species on the planet. They have thousands of genes that they do share with other mollusks and flies, and even us, meaning that we all did somehow come from a common ancestor turns out.
Evolution has a much better imagination than we do well. There’s, one more weird, cephalopod fact that might help to explain their weird evolution and that’s. The fact that they can edit their RNA RNA, plays an important role in coding, proteins for gene expressions.
So by editing the RNA you can edit the way a gene is expressed. Now all animals have the ability to edit their RNA, but for most animals it’s very limited humans, for example, have 20,000 genes, but only a few dozen RNA editing sites squids have about 20,000 genes, but they have 11,000 RNA editing sites.
They can actually edit half of their genes. They’re, still trying to figure out exactly what purpose it serves, but some researchers think that octopuses can edit their RNA to sort of adapt to different temperatures there’s, probably many other reasons.
As well, this is active manipulation of their genetic code. Now how this affects their evolution over time. We don’t really know, but it might be one of the reasons why they came out so weird and intelligent and alien.
So it might not have been a second epigenesis that created octopuses, but their intelligence did evolve in a completely different way than ours did, and that’s, a fascinating subject, and if you would like to take a deeper dive into it, I can highly Recommend the book other Minds, octopuses the sea and the deep origins of consciousness.
Inaudible other Minds was written by Peter Godfrey Smith, who is not only a scuba diver, but also a distinguished philosopher of science and after spending a lot of time around octopuses, both in the water and in the lab.
He came to some really interesting conclusions about how their intelligence evolved and how nature became aware of itself, starting from the and tracing the origin of very first nervous systems or the first brains of the first makings of intelligence both on land and in the sea.
Other minds takes a look at how organic molecules just randomly combining could eventually form octopus intelligence and tells us a little bit more about our own. Audable, of course, is the premier audiobook platform with thousands of titles to choose from, and every genre imaginable, including audible originals, that you can’t find anywhere else, so you can listen on any device anytime anywhere at home and the gym on your commute.
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