In 2010, an octopus named Paul bet on the correct result for Germany during the World Cup. Paul was right when he asserted that Spain would beat the Netherlands. Chance is probably the cause of this, but there is no doubt that octopuses are more intelligent than any other mollusk. They love to explore and can don’t always do well in captivity. If an octopus handler forgets to turn the lights off at night, and the octopus wants darkness to sleep, it will blow water onto the lamp until it breaks. Others escape through the pipes. Like chimpanzees and dolphins, they also know how to find their way through a labyrinth, use tools, learn from each other, and solve problems.
The first octopuses evolved 500 million years ago. The octopus has therefore evolved parallel to but separate from vertebrates. Yet, octopuses have a lot in common with vertebrates. The head makes up a significant part of the octopus, and it has a brain divided into two hemispheres connected by neurons. Their cerebral cortex has folds, which is also the case for advanced vertebrates like humans, and which leaves more space for neurons. Scientists who study octopus neurons find that they are similar to vertebrate neurons. All of this suggests that the octopus has a brain with an impressive ability to process information quickly and store memories.
But studying what goes on inside the brain of an octopus is far from easy. A scientist who placed an electrode inside the brain of an octopus he thought was anesthetized got a big shock when the octopus determinedly pulled the device out. He couldn’t bring himself to do any more experiments, because he felt that the animal had told him loud and clear that it didn’t want to partake in his study. Many scientists think that octopuses have a conscience. A lot of researchers are working hard to map and understand the octopus brain, hoping that the results will give insights into the basics of intelligence.