What do you get when you give octopuses ecstasy?

A Kraken Good Time

Scientists at John Hopkins University (USA) have revealed the effects of ecstasy on the marine mollusc. The results (and the reason why) will astound you.

First off, I believe that we need to acknowledge the marvel that is the strange creature. When was the last time you thought about octopuses? But really why would you…

I’ll tell you why…

Forget Houdini- they are the true escape artists…

There are over two thousand years of recorded octopus escapes, dating back to the time of Aristotle! In 1875 there was a paper dedicated to a particular octopus in Brighton, England and the case of the disappearing lumpfish. Turns out, old Tentacles McGee (not real name) was sneaking out at night for a midnight lumpfish snack before returning to his own tank.

” Screw this- I’m out of here!” Source Imgur

Not only do they get out of things, they also take things apart…

At the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium in 2009, one octopus disassembled the recycling system valve on his tank. Flooding part of the aquarium with over 750 litres of water. After which the tank had a state of the art clamp and tape system to put to halt any further delinquency!

Other amazing facts include: they have three hearts, blue blood, they can sense and respond to light without using their eyes or brain, and much like the Beatles song they do have their own gardens.

Terrifying underwater hunter or cuddly critter? Photo credit W.Tipton via Flikr

But other than our landscaping habits, what do we have in common with octopuses?

Researchers have found that we may share the same ancient neurotransmitter systems, with overlapping functions, specifically, our brain’s reaction to serotonin. Serotonin plays a major role in regulating mood and social behaviour. Ecstasy increases the level of serotonin in the brain. This increases a person’s euphoria, making them friendlier and more social.

By this logic, if an octopus and a human share this neurotransmitter than octopuses, despite being an often non-social creature, should react the same to ecstasy. This is exactly what the scientists tested.

First, the octopuses were placed in a tank with three chambers. One chamber had a flower pot and the other, an octopus under a flowerpot. The octopuses prior to being exposed to ecstasy spent more time in the flower pot chamber than with the other octopus. They then had a ten-minute bath, soaking in a beaker of ecstasy. When placed back in the chamber all the octopuses wanted to do it seemed was to be in the chamber with the other octopus.

With increased levels of ecstasy, came increased antics- one octopus was backflipping around the chamber. Heart-warmingly, some of the octopuses even started to reach out and hug the flower pot that contained their friend.

These cuddly critters may just be the evidence that serotonin has been regulating social behaviours since before humans and octopuses diverged from the same ancestor over 500 million years ago.

That’s one to octopi your thoughts.

Photo credit littleshambles via Flikr

6 Responses to “What do you get when you give octopuses ecstasy?”

  1. Gemma Higgins says:

    Haha thank you Matthew! Let’s be honest, a lot of time was spent thinking about puns

  2. Gemma Higgins says:

    Thank you Danielle!
    It’s always interesting too see what ancient structures we have kept even 500 million years after diverging from our common ancestor with the octopus!
    Also technically Octopuses is the right plural for multiple octopus (https://nerdist.com/merriam-webster-octopuses-octopi-debate/)

  3. Gemma Higgins says:

    Haha thanks Sam! 🙂

  4. Samantha Ward says:

    Haha, such a great piece Gemma!!! I love the puns! I want to keep reading more!

  5. Danielle Fong says:

    What a wacky but awesome topic to write about Gemma! The title was so bizarre you didn’t even need to come up with something outside of the box.
    Octopi are so different to humans but it’s really interesting that we share similar neurological and behavioural responses to serotonin.

    Especially loved all the puns like a ‘kraken’ good time and something to ‘octopi’ your thoughts!

  6. Matthew Graham says:

    Amazing! I was instantly drawn in by your title and your humor; so many good puns. The content was also well thought out and structured. Great job 🙂