Thursday, November 4, 2010

In Memory of an Octopus

 I've never been into watching sports.  Following teams fighting each other through a whole season again and again. Just seems madness on the fields.  So when the World Cup had started this year I was as uninterested as ever.  The only thing that really raised my attention was Paul the Octopus, and his flawless record in predicting game outcomes.

 Poor thing had passed away from the land of the eight armed sea creatures.  His short life span, perfectly normal for an octopus, is really sad considering the world wide celebrity status he was able to achieve.  Octopi are widely famous for their intelligence, problem-solving capability and long term memory. Though I've always known them for their delicious meat, and the tasty dishes prepared with them.

 I have enjoyed octopus meat for years, and planned to continue to try new recipes created around the World.  While my boyfriend Jason have always had a different outlook on consuming any intelligent being.  And for this reason he won't eat pork and octopus.  Which of course I respect, but it still won't stop me from continuously eating either of those animals.

 At least this was my opinion until recently, when coming across a documentary about the intelligence of the octopus on NatGeo.  Which changed everything once and for all.  The amazing thing is that I pretty much knew all the info the film had to show, but actually seeing it with my own eyes really did me in.  I sat in amazement as an octopus performed all kinds of different puzzles, that scientist presented them with.  They were put in mazes with several different exits, where they were able to find the easiest, fastest way out, by squeezing their flexible bodies through the tiniest holes possible.  Plus memorized the solution and remembered it for next time.  They were placed in amazing situations.  One example was especially fascinating.  Scientist put a tiny crab into a screw-top glass bottle and placed it inside the aquarium with the octopus.  It took the smart chap a couple of minutes to figure out where the opening of the bottle was, and to remove the screw by twisting it to one side to get to its delicious pray.  I'm sorry but even my smart doggie Jo could not do that.  She'd probably roll it around until it smashes into something and sets the crab free.  But to remove a screw-top, it's pretty amazing.  I feel the need to mention their ability to change color and shape anytime they want, to be able to disappear into their surroundings.  Seeing and learning the shapes and movements of other sea creatures, which they are able to copy and mimic to confuse their predators.

 It's not just the problem solving intelligence or the amazing memory that mesmerizes, but also the way they execute all of this.  The calm thoughtful movements.  You can almost see them think about the challenge before even starting on it.   Then carefully and calmly absorbing the surroundings, to make sure it's safe.  Then quickly resolve the problem.  Needless to say, I couldn't look at an octopus the same way I did before.  They seemed more like my dogs now, then just slimy sea creatures of the deep.  And I could not eat one ever since.

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