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Bearing Arms: The Amazing World Of The Octopus

An octopus called Messi rests on Decembe
Jorge Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images

With guest host John Donvan.

Here are some facts about octopuses:

• They’re venemous

• They taste with their skin

They use tools

They can solve puzzles

• They can change color and texture

• Octopuses can fit through any opening larger than their parrot-like beaks

• Yes, the accepted plural is octopuses

• Some researchers have noticed what appear to be individual personalities in octopuses

• Maybe they’re political? One reportedly bit Ted Cruz

• Aristotle thought they were dumb, while Jacques Costeau thought they were smart

• One researcher had an octopus seemingly express empathy

• They can leave the water for minutes at a time

• And they’re good hunters, in or out of water

• Most of their neurons are in their arms

• And they are called arms — tentacles (which squid have in addition to arms) only have suckers at the end, while octopus arms are covered in suckers

Because our evolutionary trees diverged so long ago, octopus intelligence is hard to compare to humans’. In fact, there are debates over whether it can be called intelligence. But these seemingly smart cephalopods are teaching humans about thought, consciousness and what it means to be a living creature.


Sy Montgomery, Author of more than 20 books on animals including “The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness”; @SyTheAuthor

Danna Staaf, Author, “Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods”; @DannaStaaf

Kelley Voss, Doctoral student, University of California at Santa Cruz’s Mehta Lab in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology; @kelleyvoss

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