Octopuses are not only adorable creatures but also incredibly smart and unique. It is known that octopuses can disguise themselves when in danger and escape in captivity, but it seems like these magnificent creatures just got more incredible. A team of researchers proves just how amazing they are in a new study published called Cell.
The authors, led by biologist Matthew A. of the University of St. Francis. Birk was interested in the adaptability of these sea creatures. In particular, they wanted to study how octopuses can withstand large temperature swings. If you think about it, humans need a relatively constant temperature to thrive. Our brain is specially designed to work at a near-constant temperature. If we swing too far in one direction or the other, our nervous system quickly begins to break down.
However, octopuses don't appear to have that problem. Their large brains are not protected by our skulls and are often exposed to temperature drops of 20 degrees and yet they thrive. While working with Californian two-spot octopuses (Octopus bimaculoides), the researchers made the discovery that octopuses can reprogram their RNA to deal with the changes, and pretty quickly. If you're unfamiliar with RNA, this nucleic acid looks like a single-stranded version of DNA. While DNA is the unchangeable genetic information, RNA is more flexible. Think of it like a genetic control system that can oscillate when needed.
The team caught two California point-to-point squid and acclimated one to warm water and the other to cold water. Then they examined their RNA. “We found that there were over 20,000 different locations on various different proteins that were edited,” says Birk. Interestingly, they also saw that more RNA was edited when the octopus was in cold water.