The brain of pop: one of the smartest animals

We live on a planet full of fascinating living things. Beyond humans, who have been able to build entire civilizations with unparalleled technological and social frameworks, other species also show incredible skills and characteristics.

There are birds that can fly tens of kilometers an hour, mammals the size of a small building, and cats that can spot prey in absolute darkness. Capabilities worthy of any comic book superhero.

But among the vast biodiversity that still populates the land, unfortunately less and less, lives an animal whose properties are particularly remarkable: the octopus, of which about 300 different varieties have been identified (cephalopods).

In this article we will stop to analyze what makes it so fascinating, with special emphasis on anatomy and the properties of the pop brain, Organ which gives it a unique cognition.

    How’s the pop brain?

    The first thing that catches your eye when looking at the pop brain is that it is by far the largest of all those possessed by invertebrates. Thus, dominates at the top of the pyramid a whole category of representatives numbered by tens of thousands (approximately 55,000). In addition, he has the highest ratio in the equation of the relative weight of his brain which makes the body, within this same classification, a common indicator for inferring the intelligence of any living being. This is a depiction of it, which appears in The Anatomy of the Nervous System of Octopus Vulgaris, by JZ Young:

    The ratio of the pop’s body size to their brain is similar to that seen in mammals such as whales, which have been able to demonstrate great intellectual talents and sophisticated social skills. In addition, the number of (raw) neurons is close to that of a dog, an animal which has accompanied man since the dawn of time and which rises as one of his most faithful companions. This fact is an evolutionary exception which has aroused the interest of the entire scientific community.

    Its nuclear brain, inserted into a cartilage capsule inside the head (it has no bones), represents only a discrete percentage of the total extent of the nervous system. The other neurons that compose it are located in its tentacles, Arranged as interconnected ganglia (minicerebros), and forming a very complex constellation of cells (100,000,000-500,000,000) which react extremely quickly to detonating environmental circumstances, forming a unique system in zoology.

    If we analyze the distribution of their nervous system, we see that only 10% of it is located in the predictable area for mammals: the inside of the head. 30% is located in two large lobes (15% for each case) which border its lateral face (after two eyes) and whose function is the processing of visual stimuli. Finally, the remaining 60% is distributed among all the tentacles, so that the greatest percentage of neurons this animal has is present in almost all of its body mass.

    In the pop’s brain, aligned contiguously, are organs that allow the animal to orient its position in space in places where light cannot reach (as some live in the abyssal depths) , which is complemented by a pair of extraordinarily dark-adapted eyes (and similar in structure to humans). We are talking about statocysts; which they share with species such as bivalves, echinoderms and crustaceans.

    In general, the octopus has a multiple brain, And not just with a nerve structure located inside your head. This organ is distributed throughout the body forming ganglia which control each of its members, and which give it an enormous capacity for adaptation.

    It is a different structure from that of mammals, an evolutionary ‘alternative’ that could provide us with information about forms of consciousness that are still beyond our comprehension (and which have recently been used to design robotic artificial intelligences).

    The intelligence of pop

    If we go back to the evolutionary history of octopuses, we find that they represent an example of extraordinary intelligence not only in the category to which they belong, but in the animal kingdom as a whole. They are living things older than the dinosaurs themselves, Which have had the opportunity to survive for millions of years to forge refined cognitive skills and which is one of the greatest examples of intellect from the past that we can access.

    Studies that have been carried out on this issue have shown that they are able to use tools (Like coconut shells to take cover in) and learn by watching other octopuses solving certain problems, keeping them assimilated for days without having to rehearse. In addition, the octopus (in over 300 species) has a unique ability: and that is that each of its tentacles can “think” for itself.

    More precisely, when an octopus observes a situation in which it must act (a prey to feed or a predator to flee), it triggers a reaction in which every part of its part participates. model of behavior. In this way, and due to the positional multiplicity that it has (since it has no joints), it is able to select a wide variety of actions to solve problems (from opening the jars to the exit complex labyrinths).

    The process set in motion is different from that of humans. In our case, the demands of the situation are compared to a restricted body pattern (rigid and poorly articulated bone), which results in limited reactions to resolve situations. The pop is so flexible that you don’t have to consider your body’s limitations. stores behavior patterns that are activated when needed, Thus offering a faster and more efficient response to the fight against environmental requirements.

    On top of all this, the brain spread across the tentacles can establish communication with the rest of the ends of the pop, so that they coordinate without entangling (which would be a life threat). This is due to the fact that each of the ganglia connects not only with the centralized brain, but also with the others, thus enabling extraordinary fine motor skills. Everything is highlighted by the fact that the brain located in the head hardly participates in the moment when the suction cups of the rest of its appendages act, which have their own will.

    It has been observed that the section of one of the tentacles (they can mutilate themselves when trying to escape) does not imply that it will “die” immediately, but will continue to move and act deliberately for about one. hour, confirming that it has autonomy. For this reason, although it is separate from the body, they can make decisions like cover up (Protect yourself from danger) and recognize another different tentacle as part of yourself (through a kind of chemical receptors located on the suction cups).

      Pop personality

      In addition to possessing great intelligence, it is proven that cephalopods have stable personality traits that set them apart in a very remarkable way, and that even they tend to cluster together based on the degree of similarity (Demonstration of social type preferences). Some of them are rough and spend most of their time locked in caves, which they plug with rocks to increase their privacy (their elasticity allows them to “squeeze” into almost any hole).

      There are also very aggressive octopuses, to the point of being able to attack and devour other octopuses. On another side, they can get a sense of human beings they feel comfortable or uncomfortable with, Whether they like it or not; forge a memory that lasts for months or even years (showing great long-term memory). Being animals that do not have a long lifespan, we can say that they create memories that extend throughout their life cycle. life.

      Finally, it has been shown that octopuses are prone to play with other members of their species, this behavior has been classified as an indicator of high intelligence in the field of ethology. And it is that it is an action which does not seek to guarantee survival nor is it explained as a reaction to immediate environmental contingencies, but aims for unpretentious pleasure and recreation. This recreational habit is observed exclusively in the most complex species, especially in vertebrates.

      Other great pop stuff

      So far, it has become clear that octopuses are fascinating animals. Beyond its history (which dates back 33 million years), his incredible intelligence and ability to have his own personality; they also have a number of additional characteristics that make them one of the most adapted and prepared animals for survival (after all, they have been doing this for a long, long time).

      So, for example, they are able to camouflage themselves perfectly in the environment, to propel ink to escape a predator that would have detected them, to attack their prey with a powerful beak and to poison with paralyzing toxins. to any overconfident fish. You could say he’s one of the great kings of the ocean … in fact, they even have blue blood! And pumped for a total of three cores, no more and no less.

      In conclusion, octopuses remind us that we live in a wonderful world, and that nature is able to model real engineering works whose presence will always fascinate the curious human being. It is our responsibility to ensure the health of our planet, So that they can continue to stimulate the imagination of future generations.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Guglielmino, E. and Tsagarakis, N. (2010). A robotic arm inspired by the anatomy of pop. International Conference on Robots and Intelligent Systems, 18 (22), 3091-3096.
      • O’Brien, CE, Ponte, G. and Fiorito, G. (2018). Pop. Animal behavior, 4 (2), 1-8.

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