Octopuses are indeed weird and fascinating creatures. These marine animals have three hearts and blue blood, and they lack bones, just to say the least. But surprisingly, their brains have something in common with the one of humans. Thanks to a new discovery by scientists led by Nikolaus Rajewsky, a systems biologist from the Max-Delbrück-Center for Molecular Medicine, it turns out that the brains of octopuses have a huge repertoire of microRNA within their neural tissue. This trait is not only similar to humans but to other vertebrates as well. In other words, we are somewhat connected to octopuses. Who wouldn’t have known that humans have anything in common with marine creatures that are so different and peculiar as octopuses?
The tentacles are able to think for themselves
The octopuses’ arms are able to make their own decisions and act in the way they want and need. That’s because those tentacles contain hundreds of millions of neurons.
In their study, the researchers wrote:
The notable explosion of the miRNA gene repertoire in coleoid cephalopods may indicate, that miRNAs and, perhaps, their specialized neuronal functions are deeply linked and possibly required for the emergence of complex brains in animals.
To come to their findings, the researchers analyzed 18 samples that were obtained from dead octopuses belonging to the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn marine research institute, which is located in Italy. The RNA sequenced was taken mainly from Octopus vulgaris, which is a common type of the marine animal. A whole California two-spot octopus (aka Octopus bimaculoides) as well as a Hawaiian bobtail squid (Euprymna scolopes) were also included in the study.
There was indeed a lot of RNA editing going on, but not in areas that we believe to be of interest.
The new research was published in Science Advances.