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This Surprising Study Discovered That Octopi Are Weirder Than We Thought!

For years and years, many people have speculated about life on other planets. “Are we truly alone in the universe?” some ask. But there is, in fact, an otherworldly creature that lives among us: the octopus.

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The octopus is not an actual alien, of course. Number one, that’d be ridiculous; and number two, octopi possess mitochondria, which, as you may remember from biology class, is “the powerhouse of the cell.” That characteristic defines them as earthlings.

It’s fun to think of them as alien, though, especially considering how crazy unique they are. Their three hearts, serious intelligence, and ability to regrow severed tentacles makes me think of Time Lords, but there’s even more to them than that. They change color to blend in with their surroundings, jet themselves around, have suckers that can grasp and hold things, and possess limbs that can act intelligently and independently of their hosts when disembodied.

On top of that, a study published this past August, which focused on two-spot octopi, discovered some of the ins and outs of their quirky, complex genome. It was so weird that the researchers said (in jest) that they were the first to describe an alien’s set of genes. Some of their genome characteristics actually resemble those of vertebrates, though a number of their genes are found nowhere else in the animal kingdom; they’re completely special to octopi.

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Also fascinating is their gene placement. Usually similar genes tend to stick together, but that is not always the case in an octopus. For instance, their Hox gene is mixed up and spread all over the genome, seemingly at random. As the study’s co-lead author, Caroline Albertin said:

“With a few notable exceptions, the octopus basically has a normal invertebrate genome that’s just been completely rearranged, like it’s been put into a blender and mixed.”

So it’s not like we needed a study to confirm that octopi were darned cool, but this study has given scientists a better idea of why and how the creatures are so darned cool.

Seriously. Who needs aliens when we have octopi on our home planet?

Want to see an octopus in action? Check out this little guy catch an unsuspecting crab!

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A. Stout is a Whovian, Potterhead, study abroad alumna, and animal lover. A native to West Michigan, she dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world.