Ocean critter, space alien or sea spider — octopus debate rages

Burt's Eye View

Octopuses — or possibly octopi — came from outer space.

That’s the word from 33 scientists who postulated their octopus ponderings in the March issue of “Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology.”

My wife, Terry, has another theory — octopuses are spiders that fell into the sea and adapted.

The scientific community as a whole remains rather skeptical about the space alien theory. Terry, too.

“I’m telling you, they’re spiders,” Terry said.

The thing about octopi — or possibly octopuses, or even octopodes — is there’s so much we don’t know about them. We don’t even know what the real plural of “octopus” is.

“‘Too many sea spiders’, that’s the plural,” Terry said.

The maverick space alien camp points out that unlike other cephalopods, octopuses possess big, sophisticated brains. They navigate any maze, and solve puzzles quickly, from opening screw-top jars to disassembling fancy research equipment. The personality-plus ‘puses possess camera-like eyes and flexible bodies. They change colors instantly for camouflage or to show emotion, and they can jet-spray water or squirt poison.

“Remember that daddy longlegs that crawled up our bedroom wall?” Terry said. “He focused his eyes on me and was calculating in his sophisticated brain the trajectory for his poison death ray blast. Until I smashed him! Eight legs and sneaky — land or sea, they’re spiders.”

I used to think that the scenes with the giant squids — octopuses in the original version — in Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” were comically embellished. It turns out that they were underplayed. An actual octopus would have opened a hatch on the Nautilus, ordered a crab salad from the galley and whipped Captain Nemo in a game of chess before recharting the submarine’s course for Niagara Falls and silently slipping away into the sea.

“That’s why you should squish sea spiders just like house spiders,” Terry said.

So here’s how the scientific E.T. champions say octopuses came to earth — in comets.

One theory is that octopus eggs, laid on whatever planet cephalopods rule, were preserved in icy meteors that hurtled through space and crashed into our oceans. In fact, there may be lots of space aliens roaming among us who rode comets to Earth, they said.

This corroborates certain conjectures I’ve held about the origins of my sister. Oddly, she’s proposed similar ideas about me. According to the octopus papers, one of us might be right.

I remember another treatise by the great philosopher Ringo Starr after a fishing boat captain told him how octopuses pick up stones and shiny objects to landscape gardens around their sea dens. It states, in part:

“I’d like to be under the sea / In an octopus’s garden in the shade / He’d let us in, knows where we’ve been … We would sing and dance around / Because we know we can’t be found.”

That’s probably because those sneaky octopi-octopuses-octopodes would load their garden visitors onto a spaceship and rocket them to the mysterious cephalopod planet.

“Squash them,” my wife said. “They’re creepy sea spiders.”

— Ask Cole for more questionable biology at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com, on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or at @BurtonWCole on Twitter.


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