Friday Cephalopod: Legal precedent

By carrying that coconut, octopuses of this sort made a change in their legal status necessary.

The extent of octopus intelligence is debated, at least among vertebrates, but there is evidence of pretty complex behavior, including possible tool use. See, e.g., J.K. Finn, T. Tregenza, and M.D. Norman, "Defensive tool use in a coconut-carrying octopus," 19 Current Biology 1069 (2009). The evidence was enough to convince the UK to grant protection to the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) in 1993, thus ironically granting it a certain elite status.

That discrimination ended in 2010, however, when the EU enacted a broader directive that let the other octopuses and even squid into the club:

In addition to vertebrate animals including cyclostomes, cephalopods should also be included in the scope of this Directive, as there is scientific evidence of their ability to experience pain, suffering, distress and lasting harm. [Therefore, t]his Directive shall apply to the following animals: (a) live non-human vertebrate animals [and] (b) live cephalopods.

They are calling it an "honorary vertebrate," which sounds rather like a demotion to me. Can we instead declare people to be honorary cephalopods? Thank you, that would be awesome.

More like this

Cool new report in Current Biology, Defensive tool use in a coconut-carrying octopus: The use of tools has become a benchmark for cognitive sophistication. Originally regarded as a defining feature of our species, tool-use behaviours have subsequently been revealed in other primates and a growing…
I was reading a review paper that was frustrating because I wanted to know more—it's on the evolution of complex brains, and briefly summarizes some of the current confusion about what, exactly, is involved in building a brain with complex problem solving ability. It's not as simple as "size…
Octopus marginatus, in a coconut shell And here it is, taking a walk while holding its shell with a few arms (good thing it has spares). Figure from Cephalopods: A World Guide (amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), by Mark Norman.
Ever since the giant squid's star-turn in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, cephalopods have shown promise in the world of film. Though sharks may get the glory (and the title roles), their tentacled nemeses stole a scene in Oldboy and were conspicuous by their absence in Watchmen. Now they're stealing…

There is more that unites us than divides us.

We have over 7.2 billion people on the planet today and not one wise leader among us can be found with the foresight and requisite leadership skills to provide anticipatory guidance. Neither a Nero can be located fiddling in a tower nor a Napoleon waiting at Waterloo. We have named our species Homo sapiens sapiens, but where are "the wisest of the wise" among us? Will a wise leader please stand up! The potential leaders I see are running off in mad frenzy pursuing only one thing......money. Can 'flying for the buck' be the wisest thing to be doing in our time? Or have the wisest of the wise taken flight aboard private jets, heading in different directions with plans to ravage the Earth on one fool's errand after another? All leading members of the last generation with the power to change course, to do something that makes a difference with regard to climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and extreme poverty.

By Steven Earl Salmony (not verified) on 23 May 2015 #permalink