Scientists have already determined that octopuses are more intelligent than the common invertebrate. Still, a recent study offers one of the reasons for this: “The octopus’ brain structure, which is responsible for learning and cognitive abilities, is similar to the hippocampus in humans, which is also responsible for cognitive abilities.”
The octopus brain is very complex and has unique cognitive abilities to invertebrates – so much so that in some ways, it has a greater common denominator with vertebrates than with invertebrates.
The research published in BMC Biology which was conducted by an international team claims that these animals’ neurological and cognitive complexity may be due to a molecular analogy with the human brain.
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Both the human and octopus genomes contain a large number of “jumping genes” or transposons, which can replicate or travel throughout the genome. Although not all of them are active, these transposons are considered evolutionary raw resources.
“Jumping genes” are active in the brains of two species of octopus: the coastal octopus, also known as the rock octopus or common octopus, and the Bimaculoides octopus, which is common in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California and has two deception spots on each side of its head.
The human genome flooring discovered as early as 2001 that more than 45% of it is composed of sequences called transposons – mobile DNA sequences, which can move from site to site within the genome of the same cell in a process called transposition (also called “jumping genes”). Both the human and the octopus’ genomes contain many transposons capable of replicating themselves or moving around the genome. Although not all are active, these transposons are perceived as raw materials for evolutionary processes.
The present study found the location of transposons belonging to the family LINE (Long Interspersed Nuclear Elements) – a group of retrotransposon sequences found in large numbers in the eukaryotic genome – similar to where they can be found in the human brain. Biologist Giovanna Ponte, of the Stazione Zoologica Research Institute Anton Dohrn in Naples, Italy explained “I literally jumped on the chair when it turned out that the activity of this element in the vertical lobe, the octopus’ brain structure, which is responsible for learning and cognitive abilities, is similar to the hippocampus in humans, which is also responsible for the cognitive skills.”