Genius Of The Deep: Are Octopus Intelligent?

are octopus intelligent

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Octopuses are part of the cephalopod family along with cuttlefish and squid. They’re notorious for their eight tentacles and large head, housing an intelligent brain.

These animals can be found all over the world in all five of the planet’s oceans. They often reside in shallow coastal waters and even rock pools, searching for prey such as crabs, clams, and sea stars.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at just how smart octopuses really are and answer a question that often comes up when discussing these fascinating animals. Are Octopus intelligent?

Yes, octopuses are highly intelligent and are some of the smartest animals in our oceans. They are capable of solving puzzles, jetting humans they don’t like, and can even open screw-top jars.

Are Octopuses Actually Intelligent?

Cephalopods, including octopuses, are the smartest invertebrates on the planet. The octopus has a large brain and an extensive nervous system, with almost as many neurons or nerve cells as dogs do.

They have tons of receptors that send messages to their brains, and even have a section of their brain devoted entirely to learning.

This allows them to problem solve, which has been documented time and time again in many different octopuses.

Octopuses have even learned how to switch the light off in aquariums by squirting water at the switch and short-circuiting the power.

How Intelligent Are Octopuses?

There are often disagreements about what intelligence is and how to actually measure it.

Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin says that “I’ve come to believe that intelligence is the ability to apply knowledge in novel ways, making links between things that weren’t seen as linked before.

And intelligence predicts how well we are able to adapt to changing environments.”

When it comes to measuring intelligence in animals, one benchmark that many scientists use is how well the animals use tools.

So how do octopuses use tools?

Well, up until recently there were very few reports of any invertebrates using tools.

Below are some of the ways octopuses have demonstrated their incredible intelligence:

Using Protective Tools

However, in the past few years, scientists have discovered that octopuses acquire items that they use as tools when an appropriate opportunity comes along.

For example, in 2009 scientists observed veined Octopi using empty coconut shells as temporary shelter should they need it.

Octopuses also use large shells and many other objects they can find to carry with them on their travels, and if they are required to hide, they can simply use the shell or coconut they have acquired.

Recognizing Individual Faces

Octopuses use their vision as a big part of their lifestyle. They have large optic lobes, which are areas of the brain specifically dedicated to vision.

They appear to be able to recognize faces outside of their own species, including humans.

This isn’t an entirely new behavior, as many animals can do this, including dogs, crows, and other mammals, but it is fascinating how well they remember.

A story out of New Zealand from Scientific America reported that at the University of Otago, a captive octopus took a disliking to one of the members of staff.

Every time this person passed the tank of the octopus, it would squirt water at her without fail, leaving other people to walk past freely.

Octopuses Can Plan Ahead

Octopuses are capable of planning ahead for the future and using past events to plan and strategize making connections between past, current, and future events.

This fascinating behavior demonstrates just how intelligent octopuses really are.

Octopuses Can Learn & Solve Problems

Octopuses are incredibly fast learners, they’re right up there on the podium of most intelligent animals alongside chimps, dolphins, and pigs.

They have an incredibly accurate memory and are able to solve problems, puzzles and even unscrew a lid on a jar.

Due to being invertebrates and lacking a skeleton, they’re able to squeeze themselves into incredibly tight spaces and make judgment calls on what is worth it and what is not.

Take a look at this mischievous octopus stealing a fishermen’s catch below;

There is a famous story from Brighton in England where a sneaky octopus would leave its tank and venture over to other tanks, break in, and enter before eating all of the fish, then closing the tank and making its way home.

Are Octopuses More Intelligent Than Dogs?

Research has shown that the brain capacity of some species of octopus such as the Giant-Pacific octopus is roughly the same as that of a dog.

This means there’s a strong likelihood that an octopus is about as smart as the average dog, which comes as no surprise given the behaviors they exhibit.

They are highly intelligent animals that are capable of numerous tasks that require a lot of cognitive ability.

Octopuses have a larger brain for their body size than all other animals except birds and mammals, which is a key factor in why they are so intelligent.

Are Octopuses The Most Intelligent Animal?

It’s hard to number the world’s smartest animals as intelligence can be monitored and displayed in a number of different ways.

What is certain is that the octopus takes its rightful place on the podium alongside sea otters, dolphins, penguins, orcas, and others.

The octopus is the only invertebrate on the planet to make the list of the world’s smartest animals, they display unquestionable intelligence that is impossible to deny.

Final Thoughts

So, are octopuses intelligent? Yes, incredibly intelligent. They are undoubtedly some of the most intelligent animals on earth.

They have large brains that are capable of problem-solving, learning, planning ahead, using tools, and much, much more.

They show great flexibility in obtaining information as well as processing it, and then using this information to their advantage.

Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you’ve learned why octopuses are some of the most intelligent animals on earth.

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