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Oct 02 2012

Hail to the king

Man, some days I’m so embarrassed for my phylum. In this video, a bait container is lowered into murky South African waters, and you can see all the fish swirling about, quite excited by the tasty flavors, and ineffectually pecking at it (or the camera. Stupid fish.) Then the King Mollusc slithers purposefully into view, wraps around the container, fends off all the fish, and unties and escapes with the bait.

It’s settled. When I die, I want to be reincarnated as a more advanced organism — a cephalopod.

(I know, what I want and what I will get are very different things. I guess I’ll settle for being mollusc food.)

28 comments

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  1. 1
    rq

    When’s the Molluscan Revolution to occur? I’m pretty sure they’re watching us for signs of weakness, to facilitate their own advance onto dry land every touch-screen on the globe.

  2. 2
    W. Kevin Vicklund

    PUNY SHARK.

  3. 3
    Gregory in Seattle

    How much time passed, between the arrival of the octopus and its departure? They sped up the film, so it was difficult to gauge. And I take it that the point of this exercise was NOT to test octopus intelligence?

  4. 4
    No One

    That’s an awesome bait-cam shot. A magenta filter would have cleared the green tint up: http://static.bhphoto.com/images/images150x150/249717.jpg

  5. 5
    w00dview

    Alright PZ, I appreciate you fighting against the deluge of cat nonsense on the internet but please, leave fish out of this. They already get shit on enough for that whole three second memory myth and for a biologist to go and call them stupid just for being excited around food and making a teeny tiny mistake with a camera just adds more fuel to their undeserved reputation for stupidity. I suggest you do some reading on fish cognition, it will really open your eyes to some of the incredible things they can be capable of.

    /rant

    Otherwise, cool video. If highly derived relatives of snails and oysters get their due respect for their intelligence then so should our fellow vertebrates.

  6. 6
    butchpansy

    Loved the shark pwnage, hated the fast-motion-with-annoying-banjo-music.

  7. 7
    Alex

    If octopi ever acquire some mutation that lets them live to be 50 years old and one to do active child rearing, we’re in trouble.

  8. 8
    PZ Myers

    Relax. Fish are my preferred lab animal, so I get to indulge in a little mockery now and then.

  9. 9
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    Hey, as a banjo player, I liked the music! Agree with the comment about the fast-motion.

    The question I had was, did the octopus just fiddle with the ties until they came loose, or did it decide that the cable ties were the problem, and take steps to release them?

  10. 10
    AJ Milne

    The question I had was, did the octopus just fiddle with the ties until they came loose, or did it decide that the cable ties were the problem, and take steps to release them?

    I could totally hear it, over the banjo music, muttering to itself: ‘Geez… They call that a knot? Lessee… Looks like some gomer tied a double half hitch here… Now the rabbit goes through the hole like sooo…’

  11. 11
    A. R

    I prefer flies as model organisms. Perhaps because I can do anything I want with their genes without PETA blowing up my lab.

  12. 12
    w00dview

    Fair enough, I did overreact a bit. Working in an aquarium gets you attached to the little buggers after all! Definitely see them as more than just food nowadays. :)

  13. 13
    unclefrogy

    the easiest way to remove a nylon cable tie is to just cut it. He left one still hanging on the the rig so it took some time to figure out what was keeping the bait thing there a cut enough to get it away having zero experience with it before.
    clever creature.
    uncle frogy

  14. 14
    Glen Davidson
  15. 15
    Glen Davidson

    Smart fish, realizing that if it achieved fame in front of the camera it would likely have a lifetime of eating calamari.

    Squishy thing just thinks of food.

    [may be double posting, if the original eventually takes]

    Glen Davidson

  16. 16
    richardwolford

    It’s a trick, get an axe.

  17. 17
    chigau (違う)

    He’ll just take the axe away from you.

  18. 18
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    He’ll just take the axe away from you.

    And then you better swim fast.

  19. 19
    Pyra

    Amazing stuff. Wouldn’t know little things like this without this blog. So much goodness here. Thanks for this.

  20. 20
    Muz

    These things are pretty darn clever. I had some notion once that the only thing holding them back from some almost scary learned intelligence is their short life span (well, granted ‘scary intelligence’ is a hugely vague term).

    But I don’t really know a thing about it. Would that help? Are some of the big ones long lived enough to show anything if it did?

  21. 21
    Glen Davidson

    Are some of the big ones long lived enough to show anything if it did?

    No one knows for sure how long giant squid live, but,

    Evidence from statoliths (solid calcium carbonate granules) found in the statocyst, the organ responsible for equilibrium (balance and stability), suggests that giant squid live no more than five years.

    http://invertebrates.si.edu/giant_squid/page4.html

    Somehow, though, I doubt that short-lived organisms (including giant squid if the above is true) have evolved the mechanisms for long-term learning and integration of that knowledge that they’d need to make much use of a long life, if, say, we genetically engineered long-lived squid (not that we have a clue how). They’d probably just stay clever, not slowly build the sort of integrated worldview that we develop.

    Glen Davidson

  22. 22
    woodsong

    Did the octopus actually untie the ties, or just bite through them? It’s rather hard to tell.

    I love the way the ‘pus keeps the shark down during the process!

  23. 23
    David Utidjian

    I recommend watching some of her other videos. All of them are very cool. I also like her choices in music.

    In my next life I want to come back as a scientist… they get to do all the cool stuff… oh wait.

  24. 24
    A. R

    This video from Lauren is pretty sweet too: http://vimeo.com/46152093

  25. 25
    Ichthyic

    I love the way the ‘pus keeps the shark down during the process!

    interesting that since the shark didn’t seem to care a whit if the octo grabbed it (just kept coming back), that the octo didn’t instead simply nom the shark instead of trying to take off and open the much more difficult bait cylinder.

    makes me think that either the shark is basically inedible to the octo (which would be interesting in and of itself), or..

    the octo is not as clever as some have suggested here…

  26. 26
    woodsong

    makes me think that either the shark is basically inedible to the octo (which would be interesting in and of itself), or..

    the octo is not as clever as some have suggested here…

    Or the octo was interested in the challenge of the bait? Maybe it was bored with shark steak? :-)

  27. 27
    Glen Davidson

    Giant octopuses don’t mind eating spiny dogfish sharks (possibly not the healthiest specimens).

    There’s always the possibility that the bait was rather tastier than the shark–and less likely to cause damage to the cephalopod.

    Glen Davidson

  28. 28
    Ichthyic

    There’s always the possibility that the bait was rather tastier than the shark–and less likely to cause damage to the cephalopod.

    that shark was… handled.

    it was no more a threat to that ceph than the bait in that bucket.

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