Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

TagGrygoriy Zolotarov

Gallipoli, Canakkale, Turkey; close up of an octopus eye (Octopus vulgaris Cuvier, 1797). Generative AI

Octopus Intelligence Shakes Up Darwin’s Tree

There does not seem to be a Tree of Intelligence, which deepens the mystery of intelligence

(This article was first published in Salvo 64, Spring 2023, as Spineless Wonders.) The octopus presents a conundrum in animal intelligence: A highly intelligent invertebrate. We used to live in tidy world, where vertebrates, with backbones terminating in a brain, were more intelligent than invertebrates, with a variety of nervous system layouts and structures (or, in many cases, little or none thereof). Mammals and birds are, of course, highly favored for intelligence because they are warm-blooded (endothermic), and the brain is a high metabolic area. The traditional “tree of intelligence” makes sense, actually. But then we got to know the octopus. A “Second Genesis” Called by some a “second genesis of intelligence”, the octopus is the hero or perp of Read More ›

Octopus in water

Micro RNAs: A New Clue About Octopus Intelligence?

While octopus brains are very different from vertebrate brains, they share with vertebrates, a huge number of microRNAs

In general, the “intelligent” animals (apes, elephants, crows, whales, dogs, dolphins) are vertebrates, not invertebrates. There is one glaring exception: the cephalopods (octopuses, squid, cuttlefish). They, like vertebrates, developed large, complex brains and unexpectedly sophisticated cognitive abilities. When thinking about the puzzle, we sometimes fall victim to a sort of confusion: We reason that greater intelligence results from the fact that it “helps the octopus survive better.” Perhaps it does. But, while greater intelligence might help many life forms survive better, only a few develop it. In short, we need a “how” explanation here, not a “why” explanation. A recent study from the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine points to the possible role of microRNAs (miRNAs). MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are Read More ›