An Octopus’ Intelligence Is Very Similar to Humans’

Medscape Staff

June 29, 2022

The brains of humans and octopuses share a molecular similarity when it comes to neurological and cognitive complexity, according to research by biologists from the Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati (SISSA) of Trieste and Zoologica Anton Dohrn of Naples in Italy. 

What to Know:

  • The octopus possesses a greater brain for its body size than all other creatures and can perform high-order cognitive actions like tool usage and problem-solving.

  • The neural structure of the octopus’ brain that is their seat of learning and cognitive abilities is similar to the hippocampus in human brains.

  • About 45% of the human genome is composed by sequences called transposons or so-called “jumping genes” that can “move” from one point of an individual’s genome to another, shuffling, duplicating, and evolving as needed.

  • The sequencing of the genome of the common octopus and the Californian octopus revealed a striking expansion of similar transposable elements in their brains that appear to have contributed to the evolution of the invertebrate’s complex nervous system.

  • This similarity between human and octopus brains shows how the same molecular process can develop independently in two genetically distant species in response to similar needs.

This is a summary of the article “Identification of LINE retrotransposons and long non-coding RNAs expressed in the octopus brain,” published by BMC Biology on May 18, 2022. The full article can be found on bmcbiol.biomedcentral.com.

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