Among all the species in the animal kingdom, octopuses are among the smartest and most fascinating. They have been known to make unbelievable escapes from secure aquariums into the ocean, and even been claimed to be capable of predicting the results of World Cup games. But did octopuses really get so smart because they descended from aliens? That was what several scientists suggested in a recent paper, but other researchers believe that it’s just too hard to take such a theory seriously, due to the sheer lack of evidence backing up these claims.
In a study published in the journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, a team of researchers claimed that the many peculiarities of octopuses could be explained by possible alien origins, as the eggs of both squids and octopuses might have “arrived in icy bodies” hundreds of millions of years ago. The study was originally published in March, but was only covered in depth by media publications earlier this week.
According to BuzzFeed News, the paper was written by scientists who had come up with the idea of “Panspermia” several decades ago. This theory suggests that extraterrestrial life helped populate Earth as far back as a few billion years ago, starting with the microbes that were among the first forms of life to appear on our planet. In the paper, the researchers wrote that octopus eggs were among these new forms of life that came from an extraterrestrial source, possibly justifying why today’s octopuses are surprisingly smart and clever.
Given the bold claim that octopuses might have had alien origins all those millions of years ago, many other scientists went on record to dismiss the study as preposterous. According to The Week, these included biologist P.Z. Myers, who referred to the paper as “garbage,” and stressed that the “novelties” in cephalopod evolution do not automatically point to octopuses having originally come from another planet. He further added that octopuses would not have any relation to other mollusks, or any other animal family for that matter, if they were really alien creatures.
In a review of the recent study, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Genetics scientist Karin Moelling said that there is no evidence to back up the claim that octopuses came from aliens, thus making it impossible to take the paper seriously. Furthermore, she noted that there are many other simpler, more plausible explanations for the so-called Cambrian explosion, where multiple life forms appeared on Earth about 541 million to 485 million years ago.
“This article is useful, calling for attention, and it is worth thinking about. Yet the main statement about viruses, microbes and even animals which came to us from space, cannot be taken seriously.”
BuzzFeed News also offered its own debunking of the theory that octopuses might have come from an alien planet, writing that museums have a vast collection of meteorites dating back several millions of years ago, but none of them appear to have any genetic material embedded within them. This includes the 1996 discovery of a meteorite originating from Mars that supposedly came with microfossil, only for scientists to “widely discount” the claim in the years that followed.