"Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake up and become aware. It does not teach, it points." ~D.T. Suzuki

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cerebral Cephalopods: The Heady Head-Feet

Cerebral Cephalopods 

The Heady Head-Feet
 Cephalopods,like the nautilus, are older than the dinosaurs.
The first fossils appear about 500 million years ago
and the more modern forms
begin to appear about 350 million years ago.

In that time, they have evolved into beautiful species
with talents and behaviors we are only now getting to know.
Cuttlefish are cephalopod molluscs, not fish. 
Cuttle refers to an internal shell called a cuttlebone. It is gas filled, chambered and used for buoyancy.
The Heady Head-Feet

Of all the animals with brains, the cephalopods (or translated literally from the root Greek, "head-feet") are by far the weirdest and because of that, maybe the most interesting.

Cephalopods are a group of invertebrate molluscs that includes the octopus, squid and cuttlefish. They are invertabrates, which means they have no backbone, just like their relatives clams, mussels and oysters. That's right, clams, mussels and oysters. But there are important differences with these relatives.

These cephalopods have brains. They don't have a hard shell like the clams, and they are predators. Hungry and defenseless compared to the filter feeding, shelled molluscs, being smart is a survival must. And so evolution has shaped them to have brains both for defense and for hunting prey. Cuttlefish and octopus in particular have the highest brain-to-body mass ratios of all other invertebrates.

And what brains they have! Brains that are so different than our own they could be considered alien. An octopus, for example, has a doughnut shaped main brain as well as."brains" through out its body. Unlike the brains we commonly know, these creatures' brains aren't  so centralized. There is what might be considered a central part, but the neurons we normally would associate with "a brain" are also distributed throughout the body. Once a signal for a desired action has been sent from the central portion, they  independently handle the motor co-ordination. These neurons also pick up signals from sense receptors in the skin and from each of the hundreds of suckers on the arms.

But they are not alien, they are every much from our world. Natural selection has evolved these exquisite animals to have a different intelligence than ours, yet make no mistake, they have demonstrated an uncanny and powerful intelligence of their own. Studying them can teach us more about the underlying nature of consciousness and intelligence.
The Opulent Octopus
The Deadly Blue-Ring  Octopus

Octopuses Are Awesome
(Octopus, from Greek word meaning eight-footed)

Octopuses have hundreds of suckers, each one equipped with its own ganglion with thousands of neurons. These 'mini-brains' are interconnected, making for a widely distributed nervous system.
That is why a severed octopus arm may crawl on its own and even pick up food. 
Frans de Waal
Mimic Octopuses are astonishing shape shifters,
transforming into other marine animals in eerie detail.
The Vunerable Vampire Octopus
Surprising Shark & Octopus Encounter
Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. 
There's plenty of movement, but you never know if it's going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Research is being done in the comparative cognition of cephalopod molluscs. The areas of interest are learning, memory and visual language.

Octopuses have been known to use tools and design shelter. Sponge Bob may live in a pineapple under the sea but some opctopuses live in a coconut. Of the Veined Octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus), at least four specimens have been witnessed retrieving discarded coconut shells, manipulating them, transporting them some distance, and then reassembling them to use as a shelter.
Now that's amazing.
Click Here for a news article on this.
Squid Smarts

Squid cognition is being studied for visual communication by neural control and changes in shape and skin pigmentation.
Deep Sea Squids

As cephalopods, squid exhibit relatively high intelligence among invertebrates. Using active communication, groups of Humboldt squid hunt cooperatively. This is just one example of many. Squid demonstrate a host of behaviors that suggest they are quite aware and very smart.
The family, that dear octopus from whose tentacles we never quite escape,
nor in our innermost hearts never quite wish to.
Dodie Smith 
An Octopus Stole My Camera!
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© 2014 MU-Peter Shimon

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