With the debut of the Seattle sea monster hockey franchise at NHL on Tuesday, many people are considering cephalopods.
This includes David gire, an octopus researcher and a neuroscientist at the University of Washington, who also happens to play hockey.
“The sea monsters are doing a good job branding their team,” gill told geekwire on Monday.
Sea monster is a huge sea monster, which originated from Scandinavian folklore. The legend of the monster sea monster probably originated from the giant squid seen by people, which is known to be up to 43 feet long.
Like sea monsters, they are elusive. In 2013, the first giant squid was photographed in its deep-sea habitat for the first time. One sample was transported from ice to the University of Washington in Alaska in 2002. Gire said that at least to his knowledge, no one knows that such fish have been seen in the waters of the Northwest Pacific.
So to learn about giant squid or sea monsters, it’s best to look at their more accessible relatives.
The creatures gire studied include giant Pacific octopus, which can usually grow to 16 feet wide when mature and can be seen everywhere in the waters of Puget Bay.
Considering his love of hockey, gill can distinguish the similarities with the Norwegian Sea Monster and the sport. “The beast’s arm is the key,” he said. It is a large part of the brain, and there is a small ganglion (a collection of neurons) behind each sucker on the arm.
“The results show that ganglia actually operate semi autonomously, so they control the local movement of the arm and sense things around the arm,” gire said. “They can smell, taste and touch.”
Jill, an assistant professor in the Department of psychology at the University of Washington, said it was similar to the way the hockey team operated.
“All these ganglia need to work together to control the arm. As you can imagine, a good hockey team must work together. There are six independent people on the ice who try to work together to achieve a goal,” he said. “Like octopus arms, they coordinate their movements with each other. But they can also make their own decisions.”
If a hockey player is like a ganglion, a miniature brain, and the team is like an octopus arm – what about the coach?
“During the game, there is no direct communication between the coach and the players, but low bandwidth indirect guidance to the team,” gire said. “This is similar to the way the octopus’s brain interacts with its arms.”
Gire explained that the octopus’s central brain has little contact with the arm and can only provide general guidance, such as which direction to go. “Therefore, the emergence pattern of a successful hockey team looks much like the emergence pattern of coordinated cephalopods,” he said.
Jill thanked the sea monster for bringing a short moment of fame to his favorite creature. He likes hockey.
As a child, Jill and his brothers took part in a game to name the new San Jose hockey team. They entered the name of their football team, the sharks, and won the game with hundreds of other children who chose the same name. “We went to visit the head of the team and met some players. It was cool. So it really got me into hockey,” Gill said. He has been playing football since then. He looks forward to participating in a shark sea monster competition in the future.
Gire’s research has appeared in deep, wnyc’s science Friday and tedx Seattle’s documentaries. He shared more cephalopod science and knowledge with geekwire below. This interview was edited for brevity.
Gequil: how do Octopus hunt?
David Gill: we’ve done a lot of research on how they catch prey in the dark, because many local species mostly hunt at night. So we found that the sucker seems to attack the prey.
Octopus can also coordinate their movements to approach, such as a fast-moving shrimp, in a way that won’t scare it away. So they know it’s there, but they can’t see it, but they can skillfully move their arms to surround it and finally eat it.
One of the problems we studied is how the arms coordinate so well when they work like semi autonomous small brains. They coordinate with each other without really controlling what they are doing directly and accurately.
Why study Octopus thinking? You compare it to an emerging system in which the attributes of the whole appear from each part.
Jill: I think it’s very similar to the way our brains actually work… I think you have a new model. If you have a lot of small semi intelligent brain [Octopus ganglion] interactions, you can produce more complex behavior from the whole system. I don’t think you can put an electrode on an octopus and say that’s where it makes a decision. For us, when we study vertebrates like humans, our disadvantage is that all this interesting confusion occurs inside the skull, where it is difficult to see. But there are two-thirds of the neurons in the octopus’s arm, and the interesting interaction between neural networks is taking place where you can see it (measuring it with electrodes). Therefore, in this sense, they are a very cool animal.
What do you think it’s like to be an octopus?
Jill: that’s one of the questions we like to ask, because it really reminds you of what your body would be like if you couldn’t directly control it. When I talked about the distributed brain of octopus, a colleague of the Department who studies human vision said that if you want to know what octopus will look like, think of those people whose brains are divided. They cut the corpus callosum (connecting the two cerebral hemispheres), usually because of intractable epilepsy. When they do this, both sides of the brain actually operate independently. So you almost have what philosophers and philosophers of science might call true divisive consciousness.
So octopus has split consciousness?
Jill: cognitive studies of people with this disease show that one side of the brain and the other seem to have a personality and method. They are dealing with different kinds of information. By expanding the human split brain thousands of times, you may be closer to their world.
A study shows that cephalopods are becoming more and more common all over the world due to climate change and ecosystem change?
Jill: I don’t think there’s a really clear way for us to know. But the advantage of cephalopods is that they have a short generation time and can produce thousands of offspring. If you want to create an animal that can quickly adapt to the new environment, cephalopods are a good species. All these offspring will have genetic variation, so you can have some offspring who may have some kind of polymorphism [genetic change] to survive in a slightly changed environment. Therefore, the population may turn to these people. They can quickly adapt to the environment, so this may be the reason why they can thrive with environmental changes.
Other researchers believe that the giant Humboldt squid – also known as the red devil – is becoming more and more common in the waters of the Northwest Pacific. Did you notice?
Jill: with the intensification of global warming, unfortunately, the scope of activities of the Humboldt family began to expand. I say unfortunately because these schools, when they enter an ecosystem, they eat everything.
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They move up and down the east coast of California to Mexico, but as the water temperature changes, you can imagine that they will start to expand northward, which is not very good. I haven’t heard of anything in our field of study, but I wouldn’t be surprised if their scope began to expand.
Tell us about the giant squid.
Jill: they have a very strong color display. They blink at each other. They always do this in these universities. I’m not sure if anyone really understands what makes them do this. I think it’s a way of communication. These colors are very eye-catching, look like fluorescence, and can span a variety of colors.
As residents of deep-water areas, they are so terrible because they work in these large-scale schools. You have thousands of people traveling with this huge group, and then they go deep into the ocean during the day. Then in the evening, they surfaced, a bit like jumping out of a horror film. They are about the size of humans. Imagine a thousand greedy creatures the size of human beings bumping in the water around a ship.
Will these squids attack divers?
Jill: I haven’t heard of it… It’s not common in diving legends.
What’s the difference between octopus and squid?
Jill: it’s kind of like they started with the same toolbox. Maybe some ancestral Nautilus. However, when they diversify and enter these ecological environments, they begin to acquire their own personality and characteristics, which makes them really different. Octopus, because it lives at the bottom of the sea, uses camouflage to integrate into its environment and prevent itself from being eaten by almost everything in the ocean that really wants to eat it.
Squid in the open ocean, they can do some camouflage, perhaps through tracking, so that the bottom looks brighter and the top looks darker. But they mainly use this very extensive staining cell system to communicate with each other. If people are more interested in rapid visual processing or social communication through visual display, it will be better to study squid. But the complexity of their arms is very different from that of octopus. They seem to do simpler motion control.
Do we know what squids say to each other with their color monitors?
Jill: it’s really squid and squid. They just have these amazing displays. They must be transmitting some information to each other, but it is difficult to decipher, or it may be because they belong to these huge groups. It’s hard to know who’s talking to whom.
And the giant Pacific octopus. What makes it different?
Jill: the giant Pacific octopus is very different from the Humboldt squid. In addition to breeding, it lives alone almost all its life. They grow very big. The biggest one recorded is in the range of hundreds of kilograms, larger than a person. They can grow arms that can span medium-sized rooms a few meters wide. They are giant species that evolved in the deep sea, but later they radiated outward and now live around the Puget Strait.
Divers have been studying them at the Friday port laboratory in the San Juan Islands. When you find a place to live alone, you know, because they have built a small cave in their house. They will live there all their life and then go out to look for food. But they are really messy, so they only leave a pile of garbage at the door. If you are diving, you know you have found a huge Pacific octopus nest. If you see a pile of empty shells of crabs and shellfish, it is next to a hole in the rock.