An international team of researchers has sequenced the full genome of the two-spot octopus common in California. The team hopes to find what makes octopi such a unique species.
While looking at the genome of the two-spot octopus, scientifically know as Octopus Bimaculoides, the scientists noticed that there are several significant differences between octopi and other species of invertebrates. The team hopes that these differences will allow them to better understand some of the unique traits that octopi poses.
For instance, octopi are known for being able to change their skin color, change their texture, having camera-like eyes, and a fascinating brain distribution that allows the aquatic animals to move their eight (8) tentacles independently from one another.
Clifton Ragsdale, co-leader of the study and neurobiology professor from the University of Chicago, gave a statement informing that the octopus genome makes it a lot easier for scientists to study cephalopod traits. And doing so is important because it represent a major point “on the tree of life for comparative evolutionary studies”
He went on to ad that “It is an incredible resource that opens up new questions that could not have been asked before about these remarkable animals”.
The researchers’ fascination with octopi has real life applications as well. Once they are able to better understand how the creatures’ brains interact with their tentacle, the researchers could use that information and develop more effective appendages for underwater robots.
On top of this, the study may also contribute to the field of medicine as octopi are well known for their ability to regrow limbs. Vehicle designs could be improved as well – octopi have a propulsion system which enables them to jet around, underwater.
Another unique trait of the species is that the suckers sitting on their tentacles can grasp objects and sense the chemicals in the surrounding water.
The study was well received in the scientific community. Christine Huffard is a field expert from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. She was not involved in the study, but gave a statement praising it. She said that the findings open doors to studies that scientists didn’t even think were possible.
She went on to say that next month, or next year, scientists will hopefully start doing a lot more complex behavioral studies thanks to the path that this one traced.
Many researchers expected these findings to also help them study and understand other species of cephalopods such as nautilus, cuttlefish, and of course squids.
Sydney Brenner, Nobel laureate and study initiator, gave a statement of his own informing that cephalopods have been some of the ocean’s smartest and most terrifying predators for the past 400 million years. In fact, are also believed to have been the first beings on our planet to show signs of intelligence.
He also added that researchers are interested in studying as many different species of cephalopods as they can. They want to see what they all have in common and what’s unique to each species.
The findings were published earlier today (August 13, 2015), in the journal Nature.
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