House Cephalopod: Our New Overlords?

A new class of blue-blooded rulers are quickly conquering the largest realm in our known world: they are known as the Cephalopods.

Cephalopods are made up of a number of different species: the most common of these species including octopuses, squids and the cuttlefish. An unprecedented increase in the majority of these species all over the world’s oceans was recently published in Current Biology. This sudden increase have led scientists to ask their most favourite questions. Why?

Although the most intelligent of the cephalopod, the octopus, is renowned for their sneaky tactics and escape strategies, including the recent escape of Inky the octopus from a New Zealand aquarium, the reason for this great population boom is believed to have been caused, mostly, by human ventures.

Human overfishing has seen the evident decline of the cephalopods predator: the large sea fish. Without the threat of being devoured by this time-honoured enemy, the cephalopods are free to roam where they would have previously been hunted.

There is a change afoot that is giving these tricky beings the edge on their rivals. Could be the increasing global temperatures of the oceans? Perhaps. Changing marine habitats could be creating prime conditions for cephalopods to thrive whilst others, such as coral species, suffer. Could it be due to the tendency of the many-limbed invertebrate to rapidly exploit good conditions for their own growth? Well this is also an option. Cephalopods have been nicknamed “weeds” of the sea. Scientist are undecided on a single explanation for the population swell, believing it to be a combination of a few factors.

Should we be concerned that these blue-bloods will soon grow too large to be contained within their watery kingdoms and turn their conquests towards drier lands? Most likely not.

Those in their own families could thwart the rapid rise of the Cephalopods. As intelligent as octopuses are, cephalopods are well known for their inclination towards eating each other. Blue-blooded or not cannibalism is a bad habit for those wishing to create a population large enough to build an empire.

First published on 2nd June 2016 on RiAus – Australia’s Science Channel

Header image credit: David Wiltshire

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