I have long been an admirer of the octopus. As a small child in Long Beach, playing daily in the breakwater, my mother warned me against the unassuming creatures, telling me to stay away from the rocks where they lived. She had taken me to a terrifying movie where the antagonist was a giant octopus who took over a lighthouse, and I envisioned giant octopi waiting patiently to grab little children who didn’t mind their mothers. I think she was more afraid of them than I.
The cephalopods are very old and have slipped through many shapes through their history. They are the wisest of the mollusks, and I have always felt it to be just as well that they never came ashore. Just think of the havoc they would cause running around in downtown New York with all eight arms signaling for a taxi.
It is true that the animals are rather odd looking, but then many of us wouldn’t win a beauty contest either. It gives one a feeling of confidence to see that Nature is still busy with experiments and is not satisfied because a Devonian fish managed to end as a two-legged character with a straw hat.
Ringo Starr of Beatle fame, wrote a charming little song called “The Octopus Garden”. The truth is that the octopus slides along the bottom collecting pebbles with which it builds underwater gardens. Perhaps this is an ancient memory guiding us to tend our human gardens.
Other than that, what has the octopus actually done to better the world? Its body looks like a bag and its feet are on its head, and it has no bones. On the other hand, it has three hearts which could prove advantageous to those of us whose single heart proves unreliable. It also has excellent eyesight and a well-developed brain both of which could have been an improvement in the human species.
It pays to know that Nature is not finished and that there is still hope for the human race.