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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Octopus eats shark?: Ock knows his eats

Recently, I blogged on Google videos on the ID controversy, and to entice readers, offered the video Octopus eats shark, where the eight-legged wonder surprises its keepers:

Zoologist Norbert Smith, for whom Octopus eats shark is a favourite, offered a comment on the octopus (cephalopod) as a creature unlikely to be the victim of a stupid shark, as the zoo curators had originally assumed*:

Cephalopods are certainly the most intelligent of invertebrates. While attending college, I built a 100 gallon refrigerated salt water aquarium and kept a small octopus, crabs, starfish and other tide pool critters...not an easy task for one living in western Oklahoma. The tank was divided by a vertical glass petition and on several occasions the octopus would get to the other side and to devour the crabs. Lacking a skeleton, it squeezed through the narrow 1-2 millimeter space alongside the petition!

I often studied in a recliner next to the aquarium. Without fail, as soon as I was seated the octopus would leave its rock cave and paste himself on the glass next to me apparently just to watch me study. I knew it was watching, because the slightest hand or head movement by me would elicit rapid color changes around his eyes and head. Remember, the chromatophores of cephalopods are controlled neurally, unlike the much slower responding hormonally controlled chromatophores of chameleons and fish. They can also instantly change their texture from smooth to rough by raising small pimple-like structures all over their body. Mating in octopuses and several other cephalopods is triggered by color changes in the female. The male can read the female's mood by her color. Wouldn't that save a lot of money spent on wine and dinner? And to think some consider cephalopods primitive. I disagree and miss my octopuses still.


*(even though the octopus is an invertebrate, and therefore supposed by some to be necessarily stupider than a vertebrate like the shark)

As for wine and dinner, forget the romance and the sharks. My taste runs to

whiskey and soda
and cephalopoda
served on crackers with cheese.

Oops, did I say something wrong? Is PETA coming to get me? "Look, honest, it was dead when I opened the can. I was only laying it out on crackers to, like, show respect .... " Maybe I better become a vegetarian and dine on mince and slices of quince.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

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