No bones, eight arms, three hearts, nine brains, perceiving colors through their skin and suction cups with an olfactory sense: what sounds like an alien creature from a science fiction novel has been inhabiting Earth‘s oceans for millions of years. Octopods are thought to be highly intelligent and have a unique and most complex nervous system. The largest part of their 500 million nerve cells is situated in their periphery, allowing for autonomous reactions of their arms, even when severed from the body. Hence the idea of the octopus possessing nine brains.
In recent years, the status of octopods as sentient beings and the implications for our interactions with them have been the subject of repeated public debate. In 2021, a review by the London School of Economics and Political Science came to the conclusion that cephalopds (just like decapods) in all probability are sentient beings. This means they are capable of experiencing feelings like joy as well as pain or distress. The authors of the review strongly recommended better legal protection and to reconsider current commercial practices that are likely to inflict suffering on them.The illustrations are part of Michèle Ganser‘s master thesis. They aim to raise awareness of the intelligence and sensitivity of the octopus and advocate for the ethical treatment of this remarkable animal.
Sources: Wells, M. J., “Octopus, Physiology and Behaviour of an Advanced Invertebrate”, (1978).
Hochner, Binyamin, “An Embodied View of Octopus Neurobiology”, Current Biology, vol. 22, issue. 20, (2012).
van Giesen, Lena et al., “Molecular Basis of Chemotactile Sensation in Octopus”, Cell, vol. 183, issue 3, (2020): 594-604.
Ramirez, M. Desmond and Todd H. Oakley, “Eye-independent, light-activated chromatophore expansion (LACE) and expression of phototransduction genes in the skin of Octopus bimaculoides”, Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 218, issue. 10, (2015).
Birch, Jonathan et al., “Review of the Evidence of Sentience in Cephalopod Molluscs and Decapod Crustaceans”, London, (2021).