How Octopus Tentacles Find Crab Dinners | The Institute for Creation Research
How Octopus Tentacles Find Crab Dinners
Sever an arm from an octopus, and like an underwater zombie it’ll keep groping its surroundings. Even without a brain, its suckers still detect and grab crabs in lab experiments. Now Harvard researchers have begun discovering what makes octopus suckers so smart.

The team led by molecular biologist Nicholas Bellono found special sensory cells on each sucker’s skin surface.1 One type of sensor houses mechanoreceptors with the same basic structure as those found in fruit fly feet. Another type of sensor turned out to offer taste-like senses that are quite unique to octopuses. Yes, the octopus can taste with its tentacles.

Publishing in the journal Cell, the team called these octopus-specific skin sensors chemotactile receptors, or “CRs.”2 They put these cells and their receptor molecules through a battery of tests to figure out how they work. Not only do they work very well as underwater noses, but the team decided that these sensory systems can fine tune their own levels of sensitivity to chemicals and surfaces.

The study authors wrote, “Thus, CRs are capable of extensive signal filtering and coding, well-suited to contribute to peripheral processing in the distributed, semi-autonomous nervous system of the octopus arm.” A distributed system, like networked computers, involves separated information processing units that communicate with one another to achieve a common goal.

In the ordinary world, it takes an engineer to ensure a sensor is “well-suited” to the particular needs at hand. And it takes a software engineer to ensure that all the parts in a distributed system can talk to one another.

Just how ideal are these sensory systems for the life of an octopus? The researchers dug deep to find out. They examined protein expression levels and electrochemical responses to particular stimuli, as well as the arrangement of various cells within the skin.

It turns out that different types of sensory cells come packaged near to one another. They tested the idea that these cells help each other detect and interpret chemistry and surfaces. They wrote in Cell, “Such dynamic communication between sensory receptors and the voltage-gated conductances of their cognate cells could facilitate transmission of particular electrical signals to the nervous system depending on ligand identity, concentration, duration, or natural product mixtures (food versus ink, for example).”2

Thus, these molecular sensors are well-suited for the electrochemical properties of the cells that house them. And coordination between these cells enables them to process a wide variety of stimuli, including types, amounts, and mixtures of chemicals.

Who would have thought that each octopus sucker contains a whole laboratory worth of chemical detection tools? Engineers who build those large lab instruments can only drool at the fine form, fit, and miniaturization of these uniquely octopus-friendly detectors. But these researchers remained faithful to evolutionary dogma despite the plain-as-day evidence of intentional engineering in the octopus.

Coauthor Peter Kilian told the Harvard Gazette, “The strategies they have evolved in order to solve problems in their environment are unique to them and that inspires a great deal of interest from both scientists and non-scientists alike.”1

Indeed, the strategies are so ideal for octopus life that they should inspire a great deal of interest from both scientists and non-scientists over the question of whether they could have evolved at all.

Stage video: Octopus captures crab using suction cups on tentacles.
Stage video credit: Peter B. Kilian. Copyright © 2020. Adapted for non-commercial/educational use in accordance with federal copyright (fair use doctrine) law. Usage by ICR does not imply endorsement of copyright holders.


References
1. Siliezar, J. Touch and taste? It’s all in the suckers. Harvard Gazette. Posted on new.harvard.edu October 29, 2020, accessed November 13, 2020.
2. van Giesen, L., et al. Molecular Basis of Chemotactile Sensation in Octopus. Cell. 183 (3): 594–604.

*Dr. Brian Thomas is Research Associate at the Institute for Creation Research and earned his Ph.D. in paleobiochemistry from the University of Liverpool.
The Latest
NEWS
Inside August 2021 Acts & Facts
Can a merciful God create parasites? How do diamonds confirm biblical history? Why won't the gospel die? And why is consensus thinking anti-science?...

ACTS & FACTS
Creation Kids: Testing the Limits
Christy Hardy and Susan Windsor* You’re never too young to be a creation scientist! Kids, discover fun facts about God’s creation with...

ACTS & FACTS
Be Blessed
During the days of Jesus, being blessed had a different meaning from what Christians understand it to mean today. The Theological Dictionary of the...

APOLOGETICS
Should Creationists Brook Loss of a Trout?
Should a freshwater stream be restored to make it habitable for a failing fish population such as brook trout?1 It makes sense that creationists...

ACTS & FACTS
Can a Merciful God Create Parasites?
Sir David Attenborough of BBC fame is regularly asked by Christians why he will not give credit to God for the amazing creatures featured on his nature...

ACTS & FACTS
Why Won't the Gospel Die?
Soon after the gospel first emerged, ancient Rome tried to exterminate whoever believed it. They tortured and murdered early Christians, but that didn’t...

ACTS & FACTS
Crater of Diamonds State Park and the Origin of Diamonds
At Crater of Diamonds State Park in western Arkansas, families dig diamonds for fun while more serious sifters seek sensational paydays. Countless brides...

ACTS & FACTS
Man: Smart from the Start
People have been created with a three-pound brain that scientists will never fully understand. Evolutionists have tried to trace the evolution of the...

ACTS & FACTS
The Fossils Still Say No: Jostle in the Jurassic
The Jurassic system of the geologic column is an enigma to evolutionists because it represents a continuance of many life forms found buried below in...

ACTS & FACTS
The Tyranny of Consensus Thinking
How can so many scientists be wrong?” This question is routinely wielded as real evidence for evolution. I’ve heard it in discussions with...