Scientists say octopuses could have extraterrestrial origins

Have you ever looked at an octopus and thought it looked “out of this world”?

Have you ever looked at octopuses and wondered what sort of crazy evolution took place in order to produce them? Or wondered where they came from?

Well, apparently, so have scientists. More than 30 of them have written a paper suggesting that octopuses could be extraterrestrial in origin, with DNA analysis to back the theory up.

In the paper, published in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, they suggest that life on Earth came from comets that had things like seeds and eggs on them, and they got transferred to Earth when it was struck by the coments. This idea isn’t anything new. It’s called panspermia.

How did they jump from panspermia to octopuses? (If you’re wondering why I keep saying “octopuses”, as opposed to “octopi”, read here.)

Well, there’s a lot of crazy stuff in octopus DNA and its evolution was pretty odd. First of all, the octopus evolved from a nautilus to a cuttlefish, to a squid and then into an octopus.

This type of drastic evolution and transformation in animals isn’t normal for terrestrial lifeforms. Secondly, while studying octopus DNA, they found some interesting things.

The octopus has around 33,000 more protein-coding genes than humans do, making their DNA more complex. Of these 33,000 genes, in the RNA analysis, they found that almost every last one of them can re-write themselves.

That’s pretty impressive, considering that humans only have around 25 such re-writing genes. Because of these re-writing genes, they can evolve and adapt rapidly, as opposed to gradually, making great evolutionary leaps. And, they have.

They suddenly evolved a large brain, complex nervous system, eyes that work as well as cameras, and the ability to change color and shape instantaneously. Furthermore, their ancestor, the Nautilus, didn’t have the ability to re-write its DNA at random.

The evolutionary process of the octopus that is proposed in the new paper. Pic credit: ScienceDirect

So, how did the octopus come to have this ability and where did it come from? The scientists suggest that it’s not outlandish to consider the fact that octopus embryos could have come from some other planet and ended up cryogenically frozen on a comet, landing on Earth and then populating it.

Or, that octopus DNA and evolution may have been altered by an extraterrestrial virus that was trapped on a comet.

You can read the entire paper here. The octopus is discussed in section “13. Evolution of intelligent complexity”.

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