Do Octopuses Have Brains?

The ocean is home to an incredible collection of marine life including a fantastic  group of animals called cephalopods. The class cephalopoda includes animals like the nautilus, squids, cuttlefish and octopuses. These creatures are almost alien-like, which tends to prompt a lot of questions including “do octopuses have brains?”.

The word cephalopoda is a greek word that translates to “head-feet”. This is used to describe the way that their tentacles or feet are connected to their head. I guess you could say octopuses are always thinking on their feet!

Do octopuses have brains?

Yes, octopuses do have brains. In fact, cephalopods like octopuses are incredibly intelligent and continue to wow scientists with their intellect. Not only that, but octopuses actually have more than one brain!

How many brains does an octopus have?

Octopuses have nine brains! An octopus has eight arms, which is a lot to keep track of! Octopuses essentially have a brain at the base of each arm which are connected to a larger, central brain.

Not only do octopuses have nine brains, but octopuses also have three hearts and blue blood, making them seem almost other-worldly!

Why do octopuses have 9 brains?

Octopuses have 8 arms, all of which they are able to move independently of one another. Not only that, but each arm has around 250 suckers that they use to taste and smell. Using eight arms that all move independently requires a lot of coordination- and brain power.

Fun Fact
An adult Pacific Octopus has around 280 suckers per arm.

At the base of each arm, there is a cluster of nerve cells or neurons that control the movement of each arm. These clusters of nerve cells function as mini brains, which are connected to the central brain which acts as the control center.

By having a brain for each arm, octopuses are able to use each arm separately, or in a combination of two or more arms at the same time.

How big are octopus brains?

Out of any other invertebrate, octopuses have the largest brain to body ratio. Octopus brains are also larger than other vertebrate species, although they are not larger than mammal’s brains.

Brain size does not always indicate how intelligent an animal is, but as a general rule, animals with larger brain to body ratios tend to have more “brain power” to invest. Octopus brains are highly complex and specialized, allowing them to do the incredible things that they do.

Neurons are fundamental units of the brain and help to send signals and information from the brain to other parts of the body, and octopuses have a lot of them! Octopuses have around 500 million neurons, which is just about as many as most dogs, which are also incredibly intelligent.

Nearly two thirds of an octopuses neurons are actually located in their arms, which allows them to expertly use their arms to manipulate things, maneuver around and complete tasks.

What do octopus brains look like?

The central, “control center” brain of an octopus is not shaped like any old brain. In fact, octopus brains are actually disc or doughnut shaped. Their brains are centrally located and the esophagus actually runs through the middle of their esophagus.

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This means that when an octopus eats, it’s food actually passes through the center of its brain! In the case that they may ingest something that is too large for them, it can damage the brain tissue surrounding the esophagus.


Are octopuses smart?

Yes, octopuses are incredibly smart. Invertebrates are not typically associated with being intelligent, but the class cephalopoda, which includes octopuses are thought to be the most intelligent group of invertebrates.

Just how smart are octopuses?

It can be difficult to measure intelligence in animals, because animals obviously perceive their surroundings and environment in an entirely different way than we do as humans. So what is considered “intelligence” for animals, is likely wildly different than human intelligence.

Nonetheless, researchers that study octopuses believe that they are incredibly smart. Octopuses have been known to find their way through mazes, solve problems, and even make escapes from their enclosures in aquariums.

There are stories of aquarium workers walking in to find that octopuses on display have found a way to escape their enclosure. Not only that, but make it into neighboring enclosures where they devour the neighboring fish in other tanks.

In the wild, octopuses have been observed to collect rocks and shells to stack outside of their dens to prevent unwanted visitors or predators.

Octopuses are even able to recognize faces and people and may act differently when around different individuals.

All of these instances suggest that octopuses are able to take information from their environment, and use it to solve problems or tasks. Any animal that has problem solving intelligence and the ability to use tools is a smart cookie!


Conclusion

Octopuses are equally as strange as they are impressive. Most of the time, marine mammals get all the recognition for being the brains of the sea, but octopuses and their relatives- the cephalopods are super smart! In fact, they are the most intelligent invertebrates and are also likely more intelligent than many vertebrates.

It’s not super surprising though when you consider the fact that octopuses have not just one, but nine brains! All of this brain power is invested in helping octopuses hunt, solve problems, and protect themselves.

It is difficult to measure intelligence in the animal world, compare to humans. The way that animals think is very different then how humans think. From what we’ve gathered though, octopuses are some of the smartest creatures in the sea.