How Smart Is an Octopus?

Humans are the most intelligent lifeforms on planet earth. Yet, their sophistication has made them curious about the very meaning of intelligence itself. More specifically, humans have long wondered about the intelligence of other animals. Studies have long been conducted to find the answers. Results have shown that creatures like chimpanzees and dolphins are very intelligent. However, studies have also uncovered a great amount of intelligence in none other than the octopus.


In the wild, their intelligence has been frequently observed. For example, the Veined Octopus carries items such as coconut shells over long distances and later utilizes them for shelter. The Mimic Octopus will impersonate dangerous sea creatures like the sea snake to avoid predators. It is interesting to note that while octopuses have very large brains, their intelligence may extend to their arms as well. Filled with many neurons, their arms will act independently if severed, moving on their own and reacting to certain stimuli.


Beyond the wild, they have shown extraordinary intelligence in laboratories and aquariums. Tests have been conducted to measure their cognitive skills and the results have proved to be absolutely remarkable. They can recognize the differences in items by size and shape, complete mazes, and solve problems. They have been observed opening jars to get in at food. Amazingly, some even manage to escape their tanks.


Octopuses have also exhibited striking behavioral habits that suggests intelligence. Octopuses in captivity have been noted to be playful. They will use items such as bottles for toys to entertain themselves. They also have the ability to change their skin to a variety of colors. Aside from being a defense mechanism, it is believed that they use this ability to convey emotions like fear and stress.


Intelligence is a natural part of evolution. Human beings attained their level of intelligence after several million years. Octopuses have been around for more than four hundred million years. That might pale in comparison to the mental development of humans. Yet, octopuses were here long before them. They’ll still be here after they’re gone. Perhaps then they’ll evolve even further, matching human intelligence or even surpassing it.


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