Researchers have been asking this question for a very long time, and more and more evidence says they really can think. But not only that – they can also feel pain, joy and pleasure.
Octopuses are classified as invertebrates, more precisely cephalopods, which also include cuttlefish and squid.
Invertebrates have a different nervous system than us, which makes comparisons between our and their intelligence difficult. Therefore, researchers have long felt that they are not capable of deeper thinking.
As a result, invertebrates are very often exempted from various animal welfare regulations. These are mostly in favour of more receptive animals, such as dogs, cats, pigs or cows.
The Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation (CAWF) has warned the British government that many invertebrates are also very intelligent and need to be protected from suffering.
»Crabs and cephalopods undoubtedly experience the world differently than we do. What matters, however, is whether this experience involves a conscious experience of pleasure and pain. We believe that there is enough evidence to suggest this.«
In their summons, they cited a lot of evidence pointing to their intelligence. They know how to avoid predators and can even weigh different options – whether it is more worthwhile for them to hunt or run away.
»The octopuses in our lab respond when you step past their aquarium. They come to see what’s going on. You can easily see how they observe you,« says marine biologist Emily Sullivan.
An amendment to the regulation would have a major impact on all invertebrates. They have not been protected so far.
The film My Teacher, an Octopus, which presented its incredible and underestimated intelligence to the general public for the first time, also talks about octopus thinking.
Octopuses are classified in the group of cephalopods, which belong to the invertebrates. Humans, dogs, cats and cows, for example, are vertebrates.
Points to Consider
- Where do octopuses live?
- What do they eat?
- What separates vertebrates from invertebrates?
The original version of this article was published on June 21st.