Popular Science

Octopuses are not aliens, but boy are they a bunch of beautiful weirdos

A new paper raises an old, contentious idea.
octopus suckers

An octopus tasting a camera.


We have to stop taking away Mother Nature’s achievements. Every time a creature is quirky or bizarre people say that it must be an alien, when the reality is that evolution is capable of creating some of the strangest, creepiest organisms you could ever fathom.

This includes octopuses, which for the record is the correct pluralization of octopus. (It can also be octopodes, since the word is Greek in origin, but never octopi.)

Octopuses seem to be particularly prone to alien theories. The most recent is thanks to a group of scientists—none of whom study zoology and many of whom don’t even study anything biological—wrote that claimed to show octopuses might come from space. In fact, they say that the entire Cambrian explosion (a period 541 million from the cosmos. Thirty-three authors co-signed their names to this paper, including the man who originally proposed this highly controversial idea in the 1970s. They use an octopus as an example, noting that “The transformative genes leading from the consensus ancestral Nautilus to the common Cuttlefish to Squid to the common Octopus are not easily to be found in any pre-existing life form” and that therefore “it is plausible then to suggest they seem to be borrowed from a far distant ‘future’ in terms of terrestrial evolution, or more realistically from the cosmos at large.”

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