According to a group of scientists, the lovable octopus, nature's aquatic contortionists, might actually be aliens not of this world. Researchers who mapped out the genetic code of the octopus found it to be so strange that it could actually be an extraterrestrial.
It's the first genome sequencing ever conducted on a cephalopod and it showed remarkable complexity with some 33,000 protein-coding genes identified - more than is found in a human.
Researchers also found that octopus DNA is highly rearranged, like a shuffled deck of cards. Their genetic code contains a number of "jumping genes" that leap around the genome.
“The octopus appears to be utterly different from all other animals, even other molluscs, with its eight prehensile arms, its large brain and its clever problem-solving abilities," said Dr Clifton Ragsdale, a researcher from the University of Chicago.
But as any scientist will tell you, all good science makes room for peer review. When the claim was leveled that octopuses were possibly aliens, other scientists stepped up to examine the claim.
Writing in The Stranger, Charles Mudede cautioned us to chill out and not judge “alienness as a matter of DNA. And this was not an accident but an inevitable consequence of the public's hyperfocus on the importance of genetic information."
“But, no matter how crazy an animal's DNA might appear, it is probably from this planet if its cells contain the energy-generating organelles called mitochondria," he wrote.
And that assessment is an accurate one. At the end of the day, the only thing the University of Chicago project demonstrated is that life on Earth is unimaginably diverse and that genome mapping projects can reveal so much about the world that we don't yet know.
It isn't out of the question that during our studies that we will find an example in wildlife of something that might not be from the Earth, but don't count on it.