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Friday, October 24, 2014

Cuttlefish and Octopus

For the last several posts we've talked about brains and intelligence in a very vertebrate-centered way (though we did briefly address the protomemetic intelligence of bacteria, fungi, ants and bees).  Let's take a side-exploration on the banyan-tree-of-life and explore cephalopods.  These creatures lost their protective shells early on which placed selective pressure on them to become agile hunters and crafty escape artists. 

There was no pressure exerted on the octopus to develop social networks and they rarely interact (except to mate and eat each other).  Their intelligence is cumulative over a lifetime, but not shared.  They easily adapt to artificial environments and show incredible mechanical aptitude.  They do however have incredibly advanced neural and optic systems which allow them to mimic venomous species and inedible environments, triggering reactions in predators which aid in their survival.  This is a protomemetic exchange, but it is a very advanced one, changing rapidly as different environments and threats are encountered on an individual, not collective, basis. 

Look at it this way: You, as a human, need other humans to survive (or needed their help to survive until you could create an illusion of being totally self-reliant).  The octopus is so flexible in assessing new situations and has been so well-adapted through the whole of evolutionary history that it never was required to become social. It has avoided the convoluted complexities of social interaction due to a quirk of selective pressures. 

Cuttlefish have developed slightly differently. They compete for mates with elaborate displays.  Smaller males who can't compete with larger ones will "cross dress" to avoid conflict with large males and get closer to females.  So they have a slightly stronger social interaction.  They therefore must have had a high enough population density at some point in evolutionary history to trigger and reward competitive and seductive mating behaviors.  Cuttlefish will also turn their skin into an elaborate pulsating display to stun prey.  These displays are protomemetic communication, triggering instinctive responses in others that aid their survival and reproduction.   

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