The Atlantic

For Smart Animals, Octopuses Are Very Weird

A new hypothesis suggests that their vaunted intelligence and short-lived, solitary nature are all linked to a fourth trait.
Source: Alexis Rosenfeld / Getty Images

A small shark spots its prey—a meaty, seemingly defenseless octopus. The shark ambushes, and then, in one of the most astonishing sequences in the series Blue Planet II, the octopus escapes. First, it shoves one of its arms into the predator’s vulnerable gills. Once released, it moves to protect itself—it grabs discarded seashells and swiftly arranges them into a defensive dome.

Thanks to acts like these, cephalopods—the group that includes octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish—have become renowned for their intelligence. Octopuses, for example, have been seen unscrewing jar lids to get at hidden food, carrying coconut shells to use as armor, barricading their den with stones, and squirting jets of water to deter predators or short out.

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