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Hydrostatic bipedal movement!

It wouldn’t feel like a genuine re-launch of this blog without fresh news of our cephalopod overlords. That’s why I was so pleased to hear of the recent discovery that some tropical octopi have learned to wrap six of their legs around their heads — and walk on the remaining two, upright like humans. Check out the video here: It is, as UC Berkeley grad student Crissy Huffard excitedly reports, the first-ever example of “hydrostatic bipedal movement”. If these things ever develop opposable thumbs we are, clearly, screwed.

I had sort of hoped the octopi had decided to walk on two legs just because they thought it would totally rock. But it appears to be a defense mechanism, as one of the investigators notes:

Huffard and coauthor Robert Full, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, think that this bipedal walking is a strategy octopuses use to backpedal away from predators while remaining camouflaged. Octopuses camouflage themselves by changing both color and shape, but when startled and forced to move quickly, they have to give up their camouflage.

Not so when walking.

“This bipedal behavior allows them to get away and remain cryptic,” said Huffard.

(Thanks to Plastic for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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