When Inky the octopus escaped from his tank at New Zealand’s National Aquarium in April 2016, he squirmed through a six-inch-wide drainpipe and stole away into the Pacific. He stole more than a few human hearts along the way, too. Inky fans celebrated the animal who outwitted the aquarium: “Please watch out — he is heavily armed,” one commentator quipped.
The intelligence of octopuses goes far beyond escape artistry. They can unscrew glass jars from the inside and solve other complex mechanical problems. They play. Some are capable of body-contorting mimicry. All of this is to say that cephalopods — the spineless, many-legged creatures including octopuses and cuttlefish — stand out among their fellow mollusks. Pity in comparison the oyster, a mollusk that, sadly, doesn’t even have a proper brain.
Cephalopods are unusual not only because they solve puzzles and clams cannot. Squids, cuttlefish and octopuses do not follow the normal rules of genetic information, according to research published Thursday in the journal Cell. Their RNA is extensively rewritten, particularly the codes for proteins found in the animals’ neurons.