The Mind Of An Octopus

I had to share this with you. It’s an excerpt from the book, Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness. The first paragraph sets it up, the second … you’ll see.

[Jean] Boal has a reputation as one of the most rigorous and critical cephalopod researchers. She is known for her meticulous experimental designs, and her insistence that “cognition” or “thought” in these animals should be hypothesized only when experimental results cannot be explained in any simpler way. But like many researchers she has a few tales of behaviors that are baffling in what they seem to show about the innder lives of these animals. One of these has stayed in her mind for over a decade.

Octopuses love to eat crabs, but in the lab they are often fed on thawed-out frozen shrimp or squid. It takes octopuses a while to get used to these second-rate foods, but eventually they do. One day Boal was walking down a row of tanks, feeding each octopus a piece of thawed squid as she passed. On reaching the end of the row, she walked back the way she’d come. The octopus in the first tank, though, seemed to be waiting for her. It had not eaten its squid, but instead was holding it conspicuously. As Boal stood there, the octopus made its way slowly across the tank toward the outflow pipe, watching her all the way. When it reached the outflow pipe, still watching her, it dumped the scrap of squid down the drain.

Here’s another story I happened upon: Inky The Octopus Makes An Amazing Escape, 14 April 2016

Inky the octopus swimming in a tank at the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier, New Zealand. (AP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Inky the octopus waited until it was dark and the staff had gone home from the National Aquarium of New Zealand before making his move.

He squeezed and pushed his way through a tiny gap in the mesh at the top of his tank and slithered 2 metres to the floor. Then he made a beeline across the room to a drain hole.

With a body the size of a rugby ball, Inky managed to stretch out and squeeze into the hole. From there, he shimmied down the 50-meter pipe until he was back in the Pacific Ocean.

3 thoughts on “The Mind Of An Octopus

  1. Marj

    I love the story of Inky and his escape, thanks for reminding me of it. A feel-good story and I hope he’s doing well and is happy as can be at his home in the Pacific.


  2. Darryl

    Cephalopod evolution definitely stumbled upon more efficient neural architecture than we vertebrates did. It would be more than a little terrifying if they 1) weren’t so short lived (even Giant Pacific Octopi die at 5 years) , 2) they were social enough to have a persistent culture, 3) they had access to fire and hence more advanced tool-making.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s