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Scientists believe the octopus could be an alien that arrived on earth from outer space

Jamie Seidel, May 21, 2018 7:00PM News Corp Australia

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Octopuses are very smart. Picture: iStock media_cameraOctopuses are very smart. Picture: iStock

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The octopus could be an alien from outer space.

Octopuses are very smart and have the unusual ability to rebuild their own bodies, like nothing else on earth.

Some scientists now believe they’re so unlike other earthly creatures because they’re not from earth.

A new scientific report argues that a cloud of living material rained down on Earth about 500 million years ago.

It could help explain what has been puzzling scientists for so long: how the eight-legged sea creature has evolved* to be able to edit* its body and survive for millions of years.

A weird and wonderful octopus showing its colours in Cabbage Tree Bay near Sydney. Picture: Ian Donato
media_cameraA weird and wonderful octopus showing its colours in Cabbage Tree Bay near Sydney. Picture: Ian Donato

Humans and all other living creatures, including octopuses, have DNA* — the material that carries all the information about how a living thing will look and function. In humans, DNA decides many things such as eye colour and how the lungs work.

But in octopuses — and some of their cuttlefish and squid cousins — another material, called RNA*, changes the messaging in their DNA, which changes their body.

One way the octopus has rebuilt its body to survive is by adapting* its brain to cope in changing temperatures in its ocean home.

Here’s a video of Rocky the Octopus at SEA LIFE Sydney Acquarium. It gives you a good look at an octopus and it’s fun!

US Marine Biological Laboratory researcher Joshua Rosenthal said it is not yet known how this ability is triggered*, or controlled.

“It could be something as simple as temperature changes or as complicated as experience, a form of memory,” Mr Rosenthal said.

Scientists now believe it’s possible the original RNA of octopuses came from outer space.

An article published in the science journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology is

exploring whether life on earth began in space with scatterings of cells being carried here.
The authors of the new report, Cause of Cambrian Explosion — Terrestrial or Cosmic? argue that a cloud of organic* material likely rained down on the Earth about 500 million years ago. And that changed everything.

A meteor like this one could have brought frozen eggs from space to earth. Picture: supplied
media_cameraA meteor like this one could have brought frozen eggs from space to earth. Picture: supplied

The paper argues the space-based transfer of life was most likely through sets of frozen eggs being captured in icy meteors* and blown by space winds to Earth before splashing down in our oceans and thawing.

The Cambrian Explosion was a mysterious period of time when life on Earth changed a lot and quickly.

It was especially dramatic* for a type of mollusc* called a cephalopod. Tentacles reached out from their shells and wove their way into an enormous variety of creatures, which eventually became the octopus, cuttlefish and squid we know today.

It’s an interesting idea, but real proof to support the alien octopus theory is still to come.

GLOSSARY

evolved: changed over time

edit: change or correct

DNA: deoxyribonucleic acid, in almost all living things, contains genetic information

RNA: ribonucleic acid, in the cells of living things; a messenger carrying information from DNA

adapting: changing over time as conditions change

triggered: made happen

organic: living material

meteors: a small item from outer space entering Earth’s atmosphere

dramatic: sudden and striking

mollusc: group of invertebrates including snails, slugs, mussels and octopuses

EXTRA READING
Three-fingered humans or aliens?

LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY

QUICK QUIZ

1. How long ago do scientists think the cloud of living material rained down on earth

2. Name two things DNA determines in humans.

3. Who is Joshua Rosenthal?

4. How might frozen eggs have got to earth from space?

5. Is there any proof yet for the octopus-from-space theory?

CLASSROOM ACTIVITY

Draw a diagram that illustrates how the authors of the paper believe octopuses came to Earth from space. You may also add labels or short captions to your diagram to make sure the information is clear.

Some things that should appear in your diagram include: frozen eggs, icy meteors, space winds and the ocean.

Extension: Draw another diagram, this one of an octopus. Label or caption this diagram with 4 fascinating facts or features of these unusual animals. (This task may require further research.)

Time: Allow 30 minutes

Curriculum links: English, Science

VCOP ACTIVITY

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many wow words or ambitious pieces of vocabulary that you can find in yellow. Discuss the meanings of these words and see if you can use them orally in another sentence.

IN ONE SENTENCE, TELL US WHAT YOU LIKED ABOUT TODAY’S STORY

Please do not use one-word answers. Explain what you enjoyed or found interesting about the article. Use lots of adjectives.

Extra Reading in animals