If you've hung around this website long enough, you'll know I am fascinated with animal intelligence; African Gray parrots, crows, dogs, dolphins, and  (here it comes) octopuses being some of my favorite animals. Not to coin a pun, but I'm a sucker for octopus stories, and I love watching videos of them or reading about them. They are fantastically smart creatures, and the more is learned about them, the more they seem to exhibit emotional lives; they clearly demonstrate recognition, and if you've ever looked into those weird rectangular irises of their eyes, you'll know whereof I speak when I say that you can't avoid the feeling that there's a kind of "personality" looking back at you.

Without belaboring the point, so much study has been done of octopus intelligence that it's now fairly widely known that they can actually learn from each other, merely by watching another octopus do something. Stories abound of octopuses in captivity, leaving their tanks (when their human minders are gone), and slithering to another tank to eat a crab, or a fish, even a shark or two, and then slithering back to their own tank before their two-legged minders return.  All this intelligence is controlled by a network of brains - one in each tentacle and a central brain in the head.

But there's a problem, they don't live very long... two to three years tops, and when they mate, they die, and the reason why has only recently been figured out  (article shared by J.T.):

In a nutshell, it is due to chemical changes in the female after she lays her clutch of eggs:

For years, scientists have tried to discover why octopuses act this way after mating. Now, a new study published in the journal Current Biology could provide the answers we’ve all been looking for. Researchers say that mother octopuses torture themselves after mating due to chemical changes that occur around the time the mother lays her eggs.

A study in 1977 found that a set of glands near the octopus’s eyes was responsible for the mechanism that caused the self-destruction. The researchers found that these glands produce steroid hormones in the octopus. And, when the mother has laid her eggs, these glands go into overdrive. It is these steroids that are believed to push octopuses to torture themselves.

Altogether, the researchers found three separate chemical shifts that occur at the same time the octopus mother lays her eggs. First, there’s a rise in pregnenolone and progesterone. These two hormones are usually associated with reproduction in a host of creatures. So, it isn’t surprising to see them here.

Next, they saw a second shift as the octopus began producing higher levels of 7-dehydrocholesterol, or 7-DHC. This is a building block of cholesterol, and humans also produce it in the process of making cholesterol, as well. However, it may be one of the chemical changes causing octopuses to torture themselves after mating.

7-DHC can be a toxic compound. That’s why humans don’t keep it in their systems long. The researchers also noted that the optic glands began producing more of the components used in bile acids.


Octopuses are naturally cannibalistic creatures. As such, the torture, and subsequent death caused by these changes could be a way of naturally culling the older generation to protect the younglings before they can be killed and eaten by the older octopuses.

Now all of this brings me to my high octane speculation of the day. As noted, octopuses are carnivores, and they're smart. And they only live two - to - three years.  One wonders just how smart they might be if they lived not two or three years, but twenty or thirty. One could learn a lot in that time, especially with nine brains. Indeed, I even saw a video on octopuses that posed the same speculation.

So suppose scientists have figured out why octopuses die so young. You know, and I know, that somewhere, some "scientist" will think it's a great idea to create the "superpus", an octopus or other kind of cephalopod that will live a decade or two... or three... And then that scientist will want to see if the extended lifespan will lead to even more intelligence on the part of this strange creature (well duh!) and then who knows what will happen? Already scientists are observing that octopuses - a normally extraordinarily solitaire creature - are beginning to develop social lives and even "octopus cities" in some places in the Pacific, a behavior that has never been observed of these creatures before.

So who knows what might happen? We know that few scientists have the wherewithal to resist tinkering with nature, so somewhere someone will do this. But with the octopus, we might be dealing with a creature that has the smarts to strike back in a variety of creative ways...

...I can't get Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea out of my mind...

See you on the flip side...

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Joseph P. Farrell

Joseph P. Farrell has a doctorate in patristics from the University of Oxford, and pursues research in physics, alternative history and science, and "strange stuff". His book The Giza DeathStar, for which the Giza Community is named, was published in the spring of 2002, and was his first venture into "alternative history and science".

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  1. kalamona on May 29, 2022 at 3:11 pm

    they would make excellent musicians i dare believe. an orchestra of octopi. what would be the polyp-beat base? all the musicians change colours to the played theme. sometimes little ink-puffs appear and go gently by the flow. swarms of toddlers hang from their mother’s arm giggling with joy and underground crystals gleam on their little beaks.
    but no. mommy kills herself. that would break a child heart, moreso if he has 3 of them. no orchestra.
    there is a series called ‘Resident alien’ and there the alien speaks with the octopus in the restaurant’s tank and later saves him from getting eaten. drip-drop?

  2. Arcturian on May 29, 2022 at 4:50 am

    It’s basically the same with humans. After they mate and marry, the female will torture (nag) the male until they’re both dead. Sure, you can try to understand this by looking at “chemical shifts” in the female, but you might as well try to understand Humpty Dumpty by carefully collecting and cataloging his shattered pieces.

    • thomasdosborneii on June 12, 2022 at 8:43 pm

      I won’t eat anything that intelligent.

    • zendogbreath on May 28, 2022 at 11:52 pm

      Heard pig farmers have it hard because pigs are so intelligent.
      And mean.
      Wonder how that’s going to go for octopi farmers.
      Didn’t we read sometime back that not only do octopi learn by observation and applied logic with trial and error, but that also they learn genetically? That is that some memories are transferred to next generations?

      • kalamona on May 29, 2022 at 2:37 pm

        heard human farmers have it hard because humans are so intelligent.
        and mean.
        wonder how that’s going for alpha draconis empresses, the star and solar-system farmers?

  3. Peter Ross on May 28, 2022 at 5:59 pm

    You say “octopuses”, I say “octopodes”: let’s call the whole thing off!

    There’s nothing in the Bible that requires me to regard the octopus as my inferior in intelligence, and plenty that requires me to regard him as my superior in morals. As far as we know, these enigmatic creatures don’t have a Redeemer, but perhaps they don’t need one.

    Perhaps heaven will be full of octopodes debating theology with T S Eliot’s hippopotami in the glow of uncreated light. I hope so! And if they come to rule in this sublunary world, we must be advised by St Paul: “Servants, obey your masters!”

    Thanks, as always, Joseph, for provoking thought.

  4. Richard on May 28, 2022 at 3:22 pm

    It might be the price to pay for being presumptively smart. Misfires within the human brain often lead to misanthropic and worse behaviors toward even worse outcomes. Profound genetic program if so.

    • zendogbreath on May 28, 2022 at 11:48 pm

      Commitment of atrocities requires beliefs in absurdities.

  5. Laura on May 28, 2022 at 2:09 pm

    when I first saw the subject of the post I assumed the article would be the recent reports on the scrambled DNA found in the cephalopod’s tentacles.
    I was hoping JPF was going to speculate on the networked brains in the octopus physique. Maybe even add a little chakra analysis (just kidding)

    https://www.livescience.com/squid-octopus-genome-brains citing the journal Nature Communications

    but after reading the morbid story of how female octopus die I thought maybe the self induced programmed chemical death contains something to alleviate the pain. I did not find that.

    the NYT article on the research states:”Scientists have known for some time that reproductive behavior in the octopus, including death, is controlled by the animal’s two optic glands, which function like the pituitary in vertebrates, secreting hormones and other products that control various bodily processes. (The glands are called “optic” because of their location between the animal’s eyes. They have nothing to do with vision.) If both glands are surgically removed, the female abandons her brood, begins eating again, grows and has an extended life span.”
    It is interesting that the self destruction chemical path is linked to the egg maturation and protection process.

  6. zendogbreath on May 28, 2022 at 12:17 pm

    Wonder how Octopi got their observed average lifespans so short? Did someone shorten them?
    Wonder how.

  7. Michael UK on May 28, 2022 at 4:46 am

    Thinking of movies Joseph, I keep recalling James Cameron’s The Abyss.
    I wonder if he had octopus in mind for the intelligent creatures living at the botton of the ocean in giant cities and operating USO’s?
    The strange thing is, there have been multiple sightings by reliable and credible witnesses of USOs coming and going from the seas around the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. Most certainly the USA and its Five Eyes member – Australia are aware and monitoring the situation.

    • marcos toledo on May 30, 2022 at 8:51 pm

      There is a book by Ivan T. Sanderson Invisible Residents that take up that idea.

    • Catou on June 23, 2022 at 3:32 am

      Michael, please tell me the source of this information.

      There is one author who wrote a book about Solomon Islands giants and USOs. The book is full of outlandish claims. Among these, for example, he claimed that one only needed to land at Henderson Field, approach the nearest local and ask them about the giants. The locals would then allegedly start pointing in all directions and talking about said giants.
      The book claimed that a family of giants lived in the ridges above Honiara and were well known to residents of the town because of their frequent fights.

      The same author claimed that he would sit on his deck at night and see all sorts of USOs flying around.

      I don’t believe him. I lived on Guadalcanal for a couple of years. I worked there in the Australian foreign service. If we had been aware of these things at the time I would definitely have known because it fit within my reporting responsibilities.

      There were no giant rows above the town of Honiara while I lived there.

      My deck also overlooked the Pacific Ocean. I never saw any of the alleged USOs that this author claimed he saw frequently.

      I had literally thousands of Islander friends. None of them had heard anything about giants, UFOs, USOs etc, on Guadalcanal or anywhere else. After these claims were publicised in the 90s, I asked my islander friends specifically about giants and USOs. They had no idea.

      In case you were wondering whether the locals might have been reluctant to share this kind of information with an outsider, they certainly weren’t backwards in sharing all sorts of bone chilling stories about the ghosts that infest the Pacific (and Guadalcanal in particular) after so many thousands of soldiers died violently right there. The Melanesian Brotherhood is tasked specifically with helping people who are being haunted.

      It has been some time since I researched this subject, but back when I was looking into this book, I noticed that a lot of authors told the exact same stories – and they all got them from this person, who conveniently allegedly died in a Fiji riot or coup or something vague with no date attached. As far as I can tell this guy wasn’t deceased.

      I have not managed to find any other source for the claims made in this book. If there are corroborating sources, I would love to know about them. It’s entirely possible that the giants were hibernating during my tenure, and the USOs used their invisibility cloaks so I couldn’t see them. Not everyone can see these things (but I hasten to add, I did encounter the ghosts. It was hard to avoid them).

      If USOs are operating anywhere, the Pacific is a great place. It’s warm and enormous, and largely empty. The Southern Ocean is also empty, but freezing, so USOs might not like it there.

  8. anakephalaiosis on May 28, 2022 at 12:26 am


    When to Medusa one is married,
    domestics become horrid,
    and they wonder why
    wandering eye,
    glances away unpetrified.


  9. marcos toledo on May 27, 2022 at 9:00 pm

    Remember the Martians in War of the Worlds are described as octopus-like in appearance and feed off biped creatures from Mars. And when that food supply runs out, they feed off humans as a local substitute.

    • Richard on May 28, 2022 at 3:18 pm

      There’s even an analogy to the Wraith of the StarGate series.

  10. Tom on May 27, 2022 at 12:44 pm

    Leviathan ?
    My Octopus Friend is a great documentary.

    • mattS on June 5, 2022 at 1:59 pm

      I believe you’re referring to My Octopus Teacher and, yes, it is an incredible documentary.

  11. Robert Barricklow on May 27, 2022 at 11:36 am

    Better start investing in underwater laptop computers, as the the high minded, blue-blooded octopuses – may need at least nine: eight per tentacles, per brain and one for the main brain.
    As far as a having complex social lives? W/three hearts? No wonder!
    I’d hate to have three broken hearts at once.

    Still, this is just another example of tinkering w/nature, that may end up w/man; once again finding out, that intelligence isn’t all its cracked up to be; when those making these kind of decisions, lack any common sense.

    Think! before you genetically leap!

    • kalamona on May 28, 2022 at 3:21 am

      its quite bad to have one broken heart. more then enough. but three?

  12. mirkogordan on May 27, 2022 at 11:24 am

    Interesting thoughts, Doc. Thanks!
    P.S. Cthulhu fhtagn! haha

  13. Chris Wyke on May 27, 2022 at 9:51 am

    They can live longer if the so called “optic glands”, two glands between the eyes, are removed. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1977/12/01/octopus-surgery-has-a-surprising-end-longer-life/a8fabbce-0d76-400f-a9b4-e95b8b93094e/

  14. kalamona on May 27, 2022 at 9:26 am

    well i think the octopus/s just find a straight way to block the cunning that would blow planets away. that seems wise. i mean, if i were an octopus, i would almost be proud of it.

  15. InfiniteRUs on May 27, 2022 at 7:26 am

    In D&D role playing game there is a monster called a Mind Slayer. Perhaps the person who envisioned this octopus headed humanoid was picking up conscious vibrations from an alternate time line where scientist created GMO octopus human hybrids with longer lives, LOL.

    • kalamona on May 27, 2022 at 11:49 am

      do not forget, that all the mind-flayers were powerful psionics…

  16. Michael UK on May 27, 2022 at 5:56 am

    The big secret is that cephalapods including octopus can communicate telepathically. Some humans have been able to communicate with them.


    A clear case of the hypernatural in action!

  17. anakephalaiosis on May 27, 2022 at 5:41 am

    When Kraken, the flappy fish market, tries to eat a Scythian horse, there will be kicking and screaming, and secretion of crocodile tears.

    Khazarian movie moguls are carpetbaggers and freeloaders, who gaslight and brainwash, to corrupt Scythian culture into collapse, so that they – through chaos – can create a new Khazarian empire of lies. (-> The Ukraine)

    Against empires, one rises, by eight-legged time-compass horse of Odin, the Kolovrat.


    When Pendragon did not yield,
    in final stand by shield,
    he rose victorious
    and hilarious,
    laughing in empty field.


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