​This Adorable Octopus Is Probably Smarter Than Your Dog

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​This Adorable Octopus Is Probably Smarter Than Your Dog

The recent mapping of the octopus genome may account for its ingenuity.
Rachel Pick
New York, US

Scientists have mapped an octopus's complete genome for the first time, potentially unraveling the mystery of its high intelligence and ability to camouflage.

The octopus genome is much larger than that of similar invertebrates, which was originally thought to be the result of mere gene duplication, a redundancy common in mammals. But after researchers at the University of Chicago fully sequenced the genome of the California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides), they realized this theory was incorrect. Rather, the additional genomic material was due to the expansion of two particular gene families.

The first family codes for a type of protein called protocadherins, which aid in neuronal development. This likely accounts for the relatively high intelligence of the octopus—an intelligence the Nature video above equates to that of a dog. For example, Scooty, an octopus at UChicago, is shown opening a jar to eat the crab contained within.

The second gene family codes for something called zinc-finger transcription factors. These proteins have to do with development, specifically of the nervous system. Researchers propose that this family might account for the octopus's unique sensory tissues, like its suckers and color-changing skin.

The octopus might not be a traditionally cuddly creature, but the more we learn about how unique and clever they are, the harder it's going to be to order octopus at a sushi restaurant.