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The Octopus: A Mixed-up Wonder

The Octopus: A Mixed-up Wonder


The Octopus is considered a primitive invertebrate, below chordates such as fish, yet it has advanced traits rivaling even those of humans. In the words of one scientist, “With its eight prehensile arms lined with suckers, camera-like eyes, elaborate repertoire of camouflage tricks and spooky intelligence, the octopus is like no other creature on Earth.” (Abbott, 2015, p. 1). He arrived at this conclusion because they “have the largest nervous systems among the invertebrates and present other striking morphological innovations including camera-like eyes, prehensile arms, a highly derived early embryogenesis, and a remarkably sophisticated adaptive coloration system.” (Albertin, at al., 2015, p. 220). In short, the octopus is utterly different from all other animals, even other mollusks. For this reason and other reasons, its origin has stymied Darwinists.

Octopuses are classified as mollusks along with snails and clams. They are, however in the class Cephalopoda (meaning brainy feet) and the order Octopoda (eight feet). Their four pairs of arms are covered with hundreds of suction cups. The suction cups contain chemoreceptors that allow the octopus to taste everything it touches. The eight arms contain tension sensors to inform the octopus about how far its arms are stretched out (Judson, 2016). Their eight arms  are the source of their name, octopus, Latin meaning eight-footed. Like all cephalopods, the body is bilaterally symmetric (composed of mirror image halves along a central axis). It features a beak with a mouth at the center point of the arms, and lacks both an internal and external skeleton.

The Octopus sucks water into its mantle cavity, then through its finely divided gills to achieve more efficiency. Octopuses are made up of mostly arms with a fairly small head and almost no trunk. The two branchial hearts pump blood through each of its two gills, and then its appendages. The third heart pumps blood throughout the central body.

Instead of iron based hemoglobin as found in mammals, octopuses blood-carrying molecules are copper based. In their cold water, low oxygen environment, hemocyanin is far more efficient than hemoglobin. The copper-rich protein hemocyanin then transports the oxygen to their body cells. The hemocyanin, instead of being carried within red blood cells as used by mammals, is dissolved directly in their blood plasma. This explains why their blood is a bluish color.

Their eyes use a camera-type eye design similar to that used by humans. The camera-type eye is the most complex eye design known in the animal world. The main difference between the two is that octopus’s eyes feature nerves wired behind so that the light sensitive cells face the light, not inverted (the light sensitive cells face away from the light) as are human camera eyes. The octopus’s eyes can distinguish polarization of light, and some even have color vision. Connected to the octopus brain are two organs called statocysts, sac-like structures containing a mineralized mass and sensitive hairs that allow an octopus to sense its body orientation relative to earth’s horizontal. Statocysts are used to automatically adjust its eyes to ensure that their pupil slit is always horizontal (Hanlon, and Messenger, 1996).

Octopuses are very intelligent animals, likely more so than any other invertebrate. One zoologist, who had one as a pet, noted that when he sat down by the tank home of his pet octopus, the creature would move to the side of the tank close to where he was sitting, remaining there during the whole time he sat there. Other reports include octopuses having been successfully trained to distinguish between different shapes and patterns (Mather, 2007). Octopuses have also been observed in what some describe as play: repeatedly releasing toys into a circular current of water in their aquariums, and then catching them as they circle around again (Hanlon and Messenger, 1996).

Octopuses can also sometimes escape from their aquarium home and enter other aquariums in search of food. Some have even boarded fishing boats and opened their holds to dine on the crabs that they contain. In some countries, their intelligence has resulted in laws not allowing doing surgery on them without anesthesia, a protection normally extended only to vertebrates.

The octopus’s primary defense is to hide or disguise itself through camouflage and mimicry. They can also rapidly escape by producing an enormous ink sac and autotomising limbs–the release of a limb, tail, or other body part when the organism is injured or under attack. Their ink sac ejects a large cloud of thick blackish ink to help them escape predators. The main ink coloring agent is melanin, the same compound that produces human hair and skin color. In evading those predators that employ smell for hunting (such as sharks), the ink cloud also reduces the efficiency of their enemy’s olfactory organs. Ink clouds of some species can also serve as pseudomorphs–decoys that some predators attack instead of the octopus.

Another important protection method they use is camouflage aided by certain specialized skin cells that can change their epidermis color, opacity, and reflectivity. The chromatophores contain yellow, orange, red, brown, or black pigments that allows them to mimic their surroundings to the extent that they cannot easily be seen, even by persons who know where they are. Other color-changing cells are reflective iridophores, and leucophores, which produce a whitish color.

Their fastest means of locomotion is jet propulsion. It allows octopuses to rapidly jet away from potential predators. Octopus’s jet propulsion system is produced by rapidly expelling a thin water jet from their contractile mantle, and aiming it via their muscular siphon to allow them to control their travel direction.

Octopuses can also escape predators by swimming or crawling on the ocean bottom. They can crawl on both solid and soft surfaces by walking on their arms, usually several arms simultaneously, while partly supported by the water. Some octopus species can crawl out of the water for short periods, such as between tide pools, while hunting, or to escape predators.

Evolutionists are baffled about octopus reproduction, which causes its death: males usually live for only a few months after mating, and females die soon after their eggs hatch. About 6 weeks after mating, the female lays from 20,000 to as many as 100,000 eggs over the course of several days. For the next 5 to 8 weeks she carefully cleans and aerates the eggs until they hatch. During the close to one-month period required to care for her unhatched eggs, the female never leaves her brood, even to eat. She gradually becomes weaker, and in a few weeks after they hatch, she will die of starvation. As a result of this care, octopuses have a relatively short life expectancy. Some species live only for about six months. Larger species, such as the giant pacific octopus, can under ideal circumstances live for up to five years.

Genome Analysis

A recent organism to have its genome sequenced, the octopus, has confounded all evolutionary expectations (Ogura, et al, 2004). Their genome “turns out to be so unlike other mollusks and other invertebrates that it’s being called alien by the scientists who worked on that project.” (Luskin, 2015). The octopus genome is almost as large as that of humans, and actually contains a larger number of protein-coding genes, close to 33,000, compared to less than 25,000 in humans (Courage, 2015).

An analysis of 12 different tissues revealed hundreds of octopus-specific genes that have not been identified in any other eukaryote. For example, the octopus has 168 protocadherin genes that regulate its neuronal development. This is more than twice as many as mammals. The researchers found that the cephalopod genome has an unexpected resemblance to many higher vertebrate genomes, similarities that are not predicted by common descent. In the end, evolutionists are forced to attribute these similarities to a dubious explanation called convergent evolution, meaning that they independently evolved many structures, such as camera-type eyes found on higher vertebrates.

Octopus ancestors were once believed by evolutionists to have lived in the Carboniferous seas around 300 million years ago. The earliest described octopod, the Pohlsepia mazonensis, was dated by evolutionists to be approximately 296 million years old (Kluessendorf and Doyle, 2000). It is known only from a single exceptionally well-preserved fossil discovered in the Pennsylvanian Francis Creek Shale of the Carbondale Formation in north-east Illinois. It is now on display in the Chicago Field Museum. Its sac-like body, head and fins are very comparable to modern cirrate octopods (Fuchs, 2009; Fuchs et al., 2009). As far as can be determined from the fossil, it is identical to modern octopuses. As no fossil record of its evolution exists, its’ possible evolution is dominated by much speculation and debate (Vecchione, et al, 1999).

The study of octopuses shows that they display many “remarkable morphological departures from the basic molluscan body plan.” (Alberton, et al., 2015, p. 220). They, in fact, are “the most mysterious creatures of the sea” (Courage, 2013). These many differences mean that evolutionists have had great difficulty even in determining their nearest common ancestor, not to mention a possible evolutionary pathway from this creature to modern octopuses (Courage, 2013). Octopuses are blessed with many complex traits found in a wide variety of both invertebrates and vertebrates, creating a chasm between them and all other known life forms (Fuchs, 2009). They are an unexplained mosaic of both very primitive and very complex modern traits that baffle evolutionists, but are perfectly explainable by intelligent design.


Abbott, Alison. 2015. Octopus genome holds clues to uncanny intelligence

DNA sequence expanded in areas otherwise reserved for vertebrates. Nature News. August 15.

Albertin, Caroline B. et al. 2015. Nature 524(13):220-224.

Courage, Katherine Harmon. 2013. Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea. New York: Current. Online.

Courage, Katherine Harmon. 2015. Octopus Genome Reveals Secrets to Complex Intelligence. Scientific American. August 12.

Fuchs, Dirk. 2009.  eurekalert, March 17.

Fuchs, Dirk, et al. 2009. Palaeontology, 52(1):65-31.

Hanlon, R.T. and J.B. Messenger. 1996. Cephalopod Behaviour. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Judson, Olivia. 2016. “The Power of Eight.” National Geographic, November, pp. 66-81.

Kluessendorf, Joanne and Doyle, Peter. 2000. Palaeontology. 43(5): 919–926.

Luskin, Casey. 2015. Evolution News and Views. August 24, 2015.

Mather, Jennifer A. 2007. Natural History, 116(1): 30-36, February.

Ogura, Atsushi, et al. 2004. “Comparative Analysis of Gene Expression for Convergent Evolution of Camera Eye Between Octopus and Human.” Genome Research, pp. 1555-1561.

Vecchione, Michael, et al. 1999. Lethia. 32(2):113-118. June.

Jerry Bergman
July 2017

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