Are Octopus Aliens? Z

Are Octopus Aliens?

As intelligent as they are strange, these creatures could have been brought by a meteor inside fertilized eggs, according to these researchers.


Imagine a comet hurtling from the depths of space, crashing into a planet, causing destruction, but also bringing life. Taking a look at the surface of that comet, small traces of organic material or even "alien eggs" would be found, which would explain how life could spread through the cosmos and reach our planet. This is a controversial idea about the origin of life, dating back to ancient Greece, known as panspermia. Panspermia (which means seeds everywhere) is the name of a theory that life on Earth could have cosmic origins, being debated by scientists and even shown in works of science fiction.

Since 2018, a group of nearly three dozen scientists from around the world are changing the theory. They not only suggest that life on Earth may have had origins in outer space, but that panspermia may be responsible for the so-called "Cambrian explosion." This is a point in Earth's history about 541 million years ago when most of the early animal groups appeared in the fossil record.
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Photo by Pia from Pexels

In the article “Cause of the Cambrian explosion: terrestrial or cosmic?” published in the journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, scientists link the rise of unique animals like tardigrades, octopuses, and the group of strange animals that flourished at the time, to panspermia. This suggests that many of these relatively strange and never-before-seen creatures are descended from extraterrestrial organic material. Comets could have brought back a host of new life forms from other planets, including viruses. This is one of the main assumptions of the well-known Hoyle-Wickramasinghe thesis: that small bodies such as asteroids and comets could bring the "seeds of life", including DNA and RNA. So far it's a plausible idea, one that has been investigated since the 1970s and continues to be explored by various groups.

"It is easy to imagine that the Precambrian mass extinction events were correlated with the impact of a giant life-bearing comet, with the subsequent seeding on Earth of new cellular organisms of cosmic origin," the authors write in the recent article. In other words, what they are saying is that life did not arise on its own, it was "seeded" by life-carrying comets that hit our planet at various times throughout history.

However, the authors also dare to postulate something more daring about: "the remarkable evolution of the intelligent complexity of the cephalopods that culminates with the appearance of the octopus". This is where the article starts to get tricky. Cephalopods, the group to which octopuses belong, arose in the Cambrian, the fossil record clearly suggests this. The first cephalopods were the nautiloids, a very diverse group of creatures that exist to this day. But nautiloids look completely different from octopuses and don't share many of their impressive features.

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In fact, octopuses appeared later, in the Devonian, 323 million years ago. This means that there is a period of more than 200 million years from the Cambrian explosion to the time when the first octopuses emerged. When the octopus genome was mapped in 2015, it showed that the nervous system genes diverged from those of the squid only 135 million years ago, again long after the Cambrian explosion. This is an ancient group with some remarkable features, but these features did not appear in the earliest creatures and gradually developed over hundreds of millions of years. Instead, what the study suggests is that fertilized octopus eggs "came aboard" an icy comet and crashed into the sea at the start of the Cambrian explosion. The genes responsible for the evolution of the octopus, they write, do not appear to come from their ancestors.


Of course, the mainstream media picked up on all of this. The idea that life on Earth comes from outer space is wildly appealing, especially when we're talking about weird creatures like octopuses, and everyone gasped at the thought of an alien octopus. "Octopuses are from space, say scientists" was one of the tabloid headlines published in the press.

"We are well aware that the dominant thinking about the origin and evolution of life on Earth is firmly anchored with the terrestrial paradigm," the authors write. "Our goal here was to foster further discussion among the biophysical, biomedical, and evolutionary science communities," they add. Science can deal with a generous dose of madness from time to time.
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The Article Has Already Raised Skepticism

While some extremophile life forms have been observed to survive the vacuum of space for short periods of time, the assumptions in this article would require eggs, embryos, or other cells to survive thousands of years, if not longer, in space. This article justifies skepticism of the scientific value of independent theories about the origin of life. Rather than dismiss panspermia out of hand, perhaps we should await the discoveries that future space probes might bring. The evidence, as always, will be the deciding factor. Perhaps it is worth having a curious idea: what if panspermia is correct?

On the other hand, other scientists do not believe this theory. "This article is useful, attention-grabbing, and worth thinking about; however, the main statement that viruses, microbes, and even animals come to us from space cannot be taken seriously," said virologist Karin Moelling of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin.

While evolutionary scientist Keith Baverstock of the University of Eastern Finland commented that the proposed theory "could support an extraterrestrial origin of life", although it does not necessarily lead to that conclusion.

Octopuses are considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates and can be found in the tropical and temperate waters of the world's oceans, according to National Geographic.

They have camouflage and abilities to flee from predators, as well as a bulbous head, two bulging eyes, and eight powerful arms equipped with tentacles.
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Photo by Ann Antonova from Pexels

These strange creatures still hide several secrets, although they are known to have three hearts and a brain, as well as a reservoir of ink that they use to flee from threats.

In the end, octopuses are fascinating creatures and hopefully, they can still be appreciated, even if they don't come from Mars.


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