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With Eight Arms and Giant Eyes

Octopuses have a sort of "mischievous intelligence," and Cosmos writes that their smarts could be due to how octopuses use their own genetic code.

For instance, Cosmos notes that octopuses rely much more on RNA editing of proteins expressed in their brains than do humans — in humans, it notes, only a few are treated this way while most of octopus ones are. This could introduce a layer of complexity, a theory it says researchers are keen to test using CRISPR and other tools researchers.

At the same time, it writes that sequencing the octopus genome has revealed other possible ways in which octopus brains stand apart. The octopus genome harbors a superfamily of 168 protocadherins, which help connect neurons. Vertebrates, meanwhile, typically have 70 types of protocadherins and about a hundred other, related cadherins, Cosmos adds. In addition, octopuses have some 1,790 zinc fingers encoded in their genomes that could influence gene transcription in the brain, and they have jumping genes scattered throughout their genome, which it notes are particular active in brain tissues.

However, the University of Tel Aviv's Eli Eisenberg tells Cosmos that these strategies could have a cost and could contribute to their short lifespan.