Octopuses as aliens from another planet?

Reader Tim sent me a link to this article from the Daily Express, which I don’t read but suppose, from this one article, is about as credible as The Sun or other British tabloids purveying fake stories. Click on screenshot to see the article. 

I’ll make this into an exercise in which readers can tell me (and other readers) why this has to be complete bullshit. First, here’s the relevant part of the article:

OCTOPUSES are “aliens” which evolved on another planet before arriving on Earth hundreds of millions of years ago as “cryopreserved” eggs via a process known as panspermia, radical new research has suggested.

The extraordinary claims were made in a report entitled Cause of Cambrian Explosion – Terrestrial or Cosmic? which was co-authored by a group of 33 scientists and published in the Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology journal.

The paper suggests that the explanation for the sudden flourishing of life during the Cambrian era – often referred to as the Cambrian Explosion – lies in the stars, as a result of the Earth being bombarded by clouds of organic molecules.

But the scientists go on to make an even more extraordinary claim concerning octopuses, which seem to have evolved on Earth quite rapidly something like 270 million years ago, 250 million years after the Cambrian explosion.

The paper states: “The genome of the Octopus shows a staggering level of complexity with 33,000 protein-coding genes more than is present in Homo sapiens.

“Its large brain and sophisticated nervous system, camera-like eyes, flexible bodies, instantaneous camouflage via the ability to switch colour and shape are just a few of the striking features that appear suddenly on the evolutionary scene.

“The transformative genes leading from the consensus ancestral Nautilus to the common Cuttlefish to Squid to the common are not easily to be found in any pre-existing life form – it is plausible then to suggest they seem to be borrowed from a far distant “future” in terms of terrestrial evolution, or more realistically from the cosmos at large.

“One plausible explanation, in our view, is that the new genes are likely new extraterrestrial imports to Earth – most plausibly as an already coherent group of functioning genes within (say) cryopreserved and matrix protected fertilized Octopus eggs.

“Thus the possibility that cryopreserved Squid and/or Octopus eggs, arrived in icy bolides several hundred million years ago should not be discounted as that would be a parsimonious cosmic explanation for the Octopus’ sudden emergence on Earth circa 270 million years ago.”

Now I haven’t read the paper—I’d be surprised if the venue was a reputable journal—but just from the excerpt above, and knowing a teeny bit of biology, you can tell that the paper (or at least the Express’s summary) is simply wrong: that octopuses are not aliens that evolved on another planet and made it to earth, but evolved right here on our own Blue Marble.

Note that the claim is not that the precursor all life on Earth evolved on another planet, and then was seeded here, evolving into all extinct and extant species, but that cephalopods, or perhaps octopuses in particular, evolved elsewhere and then traveled to Earth to become existing species that simply look as if they’re part of Earth’s creatures who did evolve here. (Remember, scientists have good reasons for thinking that all life we know on the planet comes from a single species; the Last Universal Common Ancestor.)

A further claim of the article is that the arrival of the frozen extraterrestrial calamari triggered the Cambrian Explosion: the rapid origin of various groups about 540 million years ago.

Both claims are totally bogus, and the reason why is fairly simply if you know a bit of biology. You’ll be able to learn that bit here if some biologists explain in the comments below.

Nope

p.s. I am not saying the science paper itself doesn’t exist, or doesn’t claim what the Express reports, but that any journal worth its salt would reject such an article on the basis that it contravenes everything we know about biology, and that there is a much more parsimonious explanation for any complex genes and morphology in cephalopods than arguing they are aliens with ancestors from another planet.

Once you know the simple answer, you can use it to criticize any future claims that any species or group evolved on another planet and then came here to join species that evolved on Earth.

92 Comments

  1. Merilee
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Sub

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    “Octopuses”

    Good plural form. Also correct : “octopodes”.

    Therefore : legit.

    If they wrote “Octopi” would mean it’s bogus.

    Ahhh. Good start to a Monday.

    NEXT PROBLEM!

    ^^^^^in case nobody can tell – that was all farcical. I apologize.

  3. Christine Janis
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Have you looked at the paper, Jerry? 33 authors (3 of them with the surname Wickramasinghe) and not a single paleontologist. There’s a lot of reference to Kuhn and changing paradigms, etc.

    The paper starts thus: “We review the salient evidence consistent with or predicted by the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe (H-W) thesis of Cometary (Cosmic) Biology.”

    and concludes as follows:

    ‘In a final reckoning it would have to be admitted that ultimately all of evolution has been controlled and continues to be controlled by space-borne organisms, microbes and viruses. It is important that we not allow Science to be stifled by a reign of dogmatic authority that strives to restrict its progress along narrow conservative lines. The current situation is strikingly reminiscent of the Middle Ages in Europe – Ptolemaic epicycles that delayed the acceptance of a Sun-centred planetary system for over a century (Appendix C). The current evidence suggests we came from space, we are made of viral genes, and eventually our evolutionary legacy would in full measure return to space. This will then complete the second and final phase of the Copernican revolution that was started over half a millennium ago.’

    The various commentaries and responses to them are also entertaining. And, surprise surprise, the editor is Denis Noble (who apparently also wrote an editorial on the subject).

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      “It is important that we not allow Science to be stifled by a reign of dogmatic authority that strives to restrict its progress along narrow conservative lines.”

      In other words we are completely wacked-out fruitcakes and we know it. 😉

      What’s the betting Deepak loves this idea?

      cr

    • ChrisH
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Definitely an interesting character:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandra_Wickramasinghe#Extraterrestrial_pathogens

      Seems to be eyes-deep in the whole panspermia thing.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        This is indeed the strong-enough-to-be-wacky version of panspermia. I vaguely remember hearing about this many years ago where the authors found space-borne particles the size of bacteria and smaller, and therefore earth is being constantly bombarded by alien bacteria and viruses crapola.

        • ChrisH
          Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

          Same guys.

          I had a scan through the paper, and although I’m not in any way a scientist there was enough that I understood to think “yeah… right..”!

      • Zetopan1
        Posted May 19, 2018 at 7:33 am | Permalink

        That particular Wickramasinghe testified for the creationist side at the “Scopes 2 [sic] Trial” [1]. He was quickly discredited by the evolution side (he considers the tenets of evolution to be “ridiculous”) since he had also claimed that insects are smarter than people but they are concealing it.

        So is Wickramasinghe actually an insect since he “knows” a thing that is concealed from humans, or by “people” does he mean himself specifically?

        Wickramasinghe even angered the creationists (who had paid for his flight to testify on their behalf) by correctly answering a question from the rational science side about the age of the Earth, stating that it was far older than thousands of years and no rational person could believe otherwise.

        Unsurprisingly, he has also claimed that the Archaeopteryx fossil is a fake (along with Fred Hoyle)[2].

        That Wickramasinghe is a first order crank.

        NOTES:
        [1]https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4726786

        [2]https://www.nytimes.com/1985/05/07/science/authenticity-of-bird-fossil-is-challenged.html

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Thx! I had not seen that there are comments (behind a paywall, I have to read later) and the connection to Noble.

      Else I note much the same in my own later comment – because I forgot to update. Joe Felsenstein has also written a tidbit … fun times!

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Is this journal reputable? Probably not if Denis Noble gets to natter on about evolution. He knows nothing about it but somehow gets to expatiate about it.

      Email me the pdf if you have it, please. Thanks.

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        It seems like a real journal – Tom Blundell (the guy who solved the structure of insulin among other things) is one of the editors, and he was never one to tolerate BS – at least when I knew him – although I haven’t seen him in a long time. Anyhow IF is 3 point something so not high impact but it shows no sign of being a pay to play vanity journal.

  4. Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    What about the rest of the Phyllum (Mollusca)? Where does whole these aliens come from?

  5. Serendipitydawg
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, octopodes are from Kepler-452b.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      Well, actually, tall golden-haired aliens in flying saucers used to be from Venus in the ’60’s, until the unromantic Russians sent a spacecraft and found the surface temperature was 470 degrees C and the pressure 90 (earth) atmospheres…

      After that the tall golden-haired aliens stopped coming.

      Sad.

      cr

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:39 am | Permalink

        They are still there, they just tampered with the sensors on the space probes so we got bored (they do have to lie low now we have orbiting radar) 🙂

    • Ben
      Posted May 16, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      LOL! Thanks for the laugh 🙂

  6. Jack
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Obviously, the authors too the incorrect one of their two proposed explanations. The fact that octopuses are bioengineered -post-human -time -traveling worshipers of the old ones from earth is evident from their shared biology.
    Ockham’s razor to the rescue!

  7. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Nothing about the molecular, cell, or physiology of octopi is outside of basic biology of animals. They are firmly anchored within the Protostomes in the tree of life in every way, and I know of nothing that makes them interesting and weird that is actually unique. If they were novel in some alien way, it would have been casually mentioned by someone long ago on their way to fame and scientific stardom.

    Btw, having considerably more genes than our species is no biggie. Lots of species have done that either by complete or partial genome duplication.

    • Ben
      Posted May 16, 2018 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

      Right. Don’t butterflies have a huge number of genes, mostly for controlling the complex color arrangements on their wings?

  8. johnw
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Rubbish paper. Just because Cephalopods may exhibit some degree of genomic novelty with regard to other members of Mollusca, and extremely old and diverse group, they are metazoan eukaryotes with the same basic template of genes and like all eukaryotes prokaryoticly-derived mitochondria.

  9. Warren Bailey
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Great stuff! Soon we will discover that the cartoon series “Future-Worm!” is actually a documentary set in an accessible format to prepare us for some unforeseen event

  10. David Harper
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    The Daily Express is a tabloid whose principal editorial obsessions are fomenting xenophobia, classifying everything in the universe as either a cause of cancer or a miracle cure for cancer, and predicting (with zero accuracy) that Britain is about to be engulfed by either a killer heatwave (in summer) or a snowstorm/cold snap to rival the Arctic (in winter).

    It is not a reliable source of information of any kind.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Yes, but as Dr. Janis, a paleontologist, notes above, their summary of the paper is not far off the mark. It is the scientists who are at fault here, not the Daily Express!

      • Serendipitydawg
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        It makes a change for them to correctly summarise a paper, they usually just pick up the slightest connection to cancer. IIRC they are also fans of anything that disses anthropgenic climate change.

        This report does fit in with their sensationalist reporting of science to get a headline.

        • David Harper
          Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

          I can picture the headline on the front page: “Alien octopuses: Miracle cure for cancer!”

  11. Posted May 14, 2018 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    The genome of the Octopus shows a staggering level of complexity with 33,000 protein-coding genes more than is present in Homo sapiens.

    I thought that was roughly in the same ballpark as the number of genes in the human genome.

    • kieran
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      I read that as 33,000 more than humans rather than 33,000 which is only 3,000 more than humans. If that’s their argument then plants are our alien overlords!
      Think we’re mind controlled by grass to destroy all their enemies!

    • David Harper
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      The relevant text of the paper (in section 13) is “The genome of the Octopus shows a staggering level of complexity with 33,000 protein-coding genes more than is present in Homo sapiens (Albertin et al., 2015).”

      The referenced paper by Albertin et al. says this of the octopus: “We predicted 33,638 protein-coding genes (Methods and Supplementary Note 4) …”

      So this seems to be a case of confusion caused by a missing comma. The authors of the present paper actually meant to say that the genome of the octopus has 33,000 protein-encoding genes, more than is present in Homo sapiens.

      • Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        Thanks, that’s how I read it although if I had read it as punctuated, I still wouldn’t have regarded 63,000 as being “a staggering level of complexity”. Yes, a lot more than humans but not even an order of magnitude.

  12. Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    When I saw the post, the name “Wickramasinghe” popped into my mind — I’m glad to see that this was a good prediction.

    Actually extraterrestrial origin of octopuses is completely consistent with the observed phylogeny that connects them with other forms of life — as long as they all evolved together on a distant planet and all arrived, perhaps at about the same time.

    • johnw
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      Even the Bacteria and Archaea that formed their mitochondria? Seems unlikely.

      • Posted May 15, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

        I’m not talking “likely”, I’m just saying that if all of the groups that are now seen to have any phylogenetic relationship with octopuses themselves arrived on Earth, and all from the same planet, we’d see a phylogeny consistent with those relationships. Look at it this way: it shows that all sorts of other species would also have to have arrived too.

        • GBJames
          Posted May 15, 2018 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

          It is almost as if all these creatures come from some odd planet hurling through space!

  13. Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  14. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Daily Express is a clickbait tabloid.

    Octopuses share homolog traits and genes with other life; conversely all life found to date has the same universal ancestor.

    The paper has its first author writing from a village foundation, the second from a university center founded by panspermist Wickramasinghe of the Hoyle & Wickramasinghe steady state cosmology, and so on; the 3d Wickramasinghe on the paper is Chandra Wickramasinghe himself. It seems like a family and friend cooperation.

    It is ironic that the paper was published. For one, they review their own theories. For another, they do not accept evolution. For yet another, one of the images has a diagram of Earth history labeled with hundreds of Gyrs, so older than the universe. For yet another, they left this quote in from one of the reviewers:

    We certainly do not want this paper to read, as one reviewer has put it …

    “ somewhat like a last-ditch and exasperated attempt to convince the main stream of the scientific community that in following neo-Darwinism they have gone seriously astray, because life has been carried to this planet from elsewhere in the universe on comets/meteorites and does not result from abiogenesis on Earth.”

  15. GBJames
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Too much woo and nonsense to keep track of.

  16. Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I am assuming the smoking gun showing this speculation is bogus is the fact that cephalopods have the same A-T-C-G nucleotide coding scheme, is that right?

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      Not just that, but the same genetic code, the same intermediary metabolism, the same method for turning DNA into proteins, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum.

      • Christine Janis
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        To be fair, what they appear to be asserting is the extraterrestrial nature of all the viral inserts, not the basic pattern of life

      • Posted May 14, 2018 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

        And when the world was young, we were taught that they were related to snails and mussels. Are we to expect an article about extraterrestrial stails?

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

      That was my first thought, too.

      Also, reading too quickly, I read “Calamari Explosion” instead of “Cambrian Explosion”. Close!

      For anyone interested, here is ZeFrank’s True Facts segment on the octopus.

  17. GBJames
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    The paper states: “The genome of the Octopus shows a staggering level of complexity with 33,000 protein-coding genes more than is present in Homo sapiens.

    This is also true in onions, another obvious extraterrestrial life form.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      It is strange that the number of genes carried by a species correlates so poorly with our feelings about where it belongs on some sort of complexity or sophistication scale.

      The “junk DNA” concept seems to follow similar lines. I see reports quite often of how junk DNA is being seen as having some active role to play.

      Perhaps the biologists will correct me but it seems there’s still a lot we don’t understand.

      • GBJames
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        “how junk DNA is being seen as having some active role to play”

        I think these sorts of comments originate from religious types who can’t imagine that gods would create genetic cruft. Joke’s on them.

    • David Harper
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      I, for one, welcome our onion overlords!

    • nicky
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

      Btw, it is an article one would expect in “The Onion”.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Chandra W. at The University of Buckingham must be running short on funding again. They troll this sort of crap regularly for [I assume] the dineros. Chandra has around 30 books on the subject which presumably aren’t that different from each other.

      The process:
      [1] Write a very quotable ‘paper’
      [2] Farm it out to the tabloids as ‘science’
      [3] Wait for wealthy loons to give you money

      Thanks for putting up the pdf link! Have you read the bit “Note Added In Proof” [immediately before the appendices?] – wonderfully barmy. The appendices are fun too. Example of lies & exaggerations:

      A crucial prediction of the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe cosmic theory of life is that new genetic material (DNA/RNA) in the form of bacteria and viruses arrives at the Earth from space both continuously as well as in sporadic bursts. Such a process is envisioned to extend the processes of biological evolution to involve horizontal gene transfer over galactic or cosmic dimensions. The search for such incoming bacteria and viruses using balloon-borne equipment lofted to the stratosphere has been carried out for nearly two decades (Harris et al, 2002; Wainwright et al, 2003; Shivaji et al, 2009). Stratospheric air samples recovered from heights ranging from 28 to 41 km have indeed yielded evidence of microorganisms, but these have been widely regarded as most likely to have been lofted from the Earth’s surface. The situation has changed dramatically in recent months, however. T.V. Grebennikova et al (2018) have now confirmed the discovery of several microbial species associated with cosmic dust on the exterior windows of the International Space Station (ISS), and contamination at source and in the laboratory has been ruled out. The results of PCR amplification followed by DNA sequencing and phylogenetic analysis have established the presence of bacteria of the genus Mycobacteria and the extremophile genus Delftia, amongst others, associated with deposits of cosmic dust, which are now from a height of some 400km above the Earth’s surface. A terrestrial origin seems most unlikely. Studies by Wickramasinghe and Rycroft (2018) have shown that all possible mechanisms for lofting these organisms against gravity to heights of 400km in the ionosphere fall short by many orders of magnitude.

      • Posted May 15, 2018 at 3:24 am | Permalink

        It’s what we do (library people!) – hunting down difficult to find articles. It is annoying to me that so often articles go up on news websites without the source for whatever it is. I always like to see the original. 😉

      • Posted May 15, 2018 at 3:27 am | Permalink

        All panspermia does is push the origins of life off to another planet… then I suppose it is turtles all the way down…

  18. Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Even though I am a science fiction buff, most of the interactions between life on earth and visiting aliens makes no sense from a biological point of view. Assuming both earth and alien life independently emerged from primordial chemistry, their biologies are likely to be so different that any kind of interaction at that level is unlikely in the extreme. Even being eaten by aliens is not very likely though they might try and get an upset tummy from doing so.

    Of course, if life in the universe has a single origin, on earth or elsewhere, there might be some compatibility as long as the time periods between contact were reasonably small. Even then it would be relatively simple life that could survive in space for a while, not octopuses.

  19. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Another thought

    About things coming from outer space

    To an alien visitor to our planet, they would consider us to already be in outer space.

    In other words, we are already in outer space.

    Also the author here cannot provide any evidence from outside our atmosphere to support the claim. But it is possible. So game over.

    I apologize but no I didn’t read the article.

    Also WTF the backspacing/deleting on this site takes forever.

  20. Christopher
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Either this is a very late April fools joke or some bonehead saw the terribly lame movie “Arrival” and thought it was a documentary.

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      Happy to hear that I’m not the only one who found “Arrival” lame. I got so sick of reading how someone came up with a real language using linguistic science principles. Please! Perhaps the book was better and it was severely diluted in bringing it to the screen. If someone whose opinion I trust told me that the book was good, I might even read it as I love believable alien stories.

      • Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        What I thought funny was that it was up to humans to decode the language of the aliens, who were intelligent and advanced enough to engineer interstellar travel, rather than the other way around.

        • Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

          Yes. We always seem to come out on top in the end of these encounters with aliens.

          • David Harper
            Posted May 14, 2018 at 10:58 am | Permalink

            I refer my learned friend to the classic Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man” 🙂

            • Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:06 am | Permalink

              Ok, almost always then. LOL

            • freiner
              Posted May 14, 2018 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

              In that one we came out as topping.

              • Posted May 14, 2018 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

                Yes! The meaning of my family name is “One who conquers aliens”.

        • darrelle
          Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

          The aliens were there specifically to give us earthlings their language. That was the key to the whole story, good or not. I suppose it could be argued that the aliens could have taught there language easier by corresponding with the humans in their own language, but it is fairly plausible to me that that might not be true.

          The fatal flaw in the story for me was that the old, very well refuted hypothesis that we think in language was the lynch pin of the whole story. The reason the aliens wanted us to learn their language was to enable us to think like them, which somehow enables one to see the past and future as readily as the present. Other than that I really liked the movie.

          • Posted May 14, 2018 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

            Oh. That went by me in the movie. I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention.

            Actually, I have some sympathy with view that how we think reflects our language. I have had this discussion with Chinese speakers who tell me of the difficulty in translating Chinese poetry into English and vice versa.

            • darrelle
              Posted May 14, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

              Though I didn’t find it so I can see how the movie could very easily be boring, so I’d never fault you for missing anything in it.

              I think things like translation difficulties are almost entirely caused by cultural differences and language differences of the kind where a word from one language is difficult to translate into another because the concept represented by the word is not an identical match for any concept / word pairing in the other language. And that seems to me to come down to cultural differences.

              But as far as humans thinking in language, the evidence and arguments against that idea, largely from modern linguistics, are pretty convincing. One tiny example I like to use, can’t remember the source, is “how often do you have trouble figuring out how to put what you are thinking into words?”

      • Christopher
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        I got bored and started doing a crossword puzzle. It was a movie waiting to happen but didn’t. Seriously, nothing ever really happened. I kept thinking something was about to happen, something felt like it wanted to happen, something almost happened with the soldiers going rogue but then nope, nothing really happened. And it couldn’t decide if it was a really lame love story or a really lame sci-fi story. The only thing it could decide on was to be lame.

  21. Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    A whole thread on supposed extraterrestrial origins of cephalopods and nobody has mentioned that prophet of our times, H. P. Lovecraft? 😉

    • darrelle
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Jack up at comment 6 did. All hail Cthulhu.

      (I’m pleased, or rather scared, that my spell-check knew how to spell Cthulhu and knew I misspelled it. I hope it doesn’t let him know.)

  22. Taz
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Its large brain and sophisticated nervous system, camera-like eyes, flexible bodies, instantaneous camouflage via the ability to switch colour and shape are just a few of the striking features that appear suddenly on the evolutionary scene.

    None of these features are unique to cephalopods, are they? How do they explain chameleons? Did they evolve from octopuses?

  23. Jon Gallant
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    For admirers of believable alien stories, and of Cephalopoda, I recommend an old sci fi story which evokes the mind of a squid. I believe the story was by H.F. Heard, and I think it MAY (not sure) have been called “The Collector”, because of the squid’s hobby.

    As for the “number of genes” league table, the human species is easily outranked by the delightful little water-flea Dapnnia. Come to think of it, anyone watching Daphnia’s antics through a low-power microscope could well suspect that they come from another planet. The number of protein-coding genes enjoyed by our species is also significantly exceeded by that of a number of plants, including corn and soybeans.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      The Collector is right. My PC says I have it in a box in the loft, but in a French version collection Revue FICTION # 2, Decembre 1953 where it’s called L’Antinéa des mers – About a fish collector guy who is himself collected by a 10-armed cephalopoid thingie alien. That’s the whole story really if memory serves.

      Heard was one weird guy – believed in all sorts of wacky para-this para-that stuff & hoovered down a wide range of drugs. Lived long though.

  24. nicky
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    To be honest, Octopuses are kinda alien:
    -their whole body-shape is in between bilateral and radial, and weird.
    -with tentacles able to manipulate fine objects.
    -severed tentacles appear to have their own intent.
    -they can pass through incredibly small openings since lacking exo- or endoskeleton, just a beak.
    -despite not knowing their parents and being known to be a-social, they can learn from other octopuses.
    -they are intelligent, enormously so for a mollusc.
    -they cannot only change their colours in a fraction of a second, but they can change the texture of their skins.
    -they have well developed camera-type eyes, with their retinas the ‘right’ way round.
    -although they have only one pigment, they can see colours through chromatic aberration.
    -etc. etc.
    They are about the most wonderful animals on this planet, ‘aliens’ indeed! 🙂

    • Jon Gallant
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      According to Wiki: “Captive cephalopods have also been known to climb out of their aquaria, maneuver a distance of the lab floor, enter another aquarium to feed on the crabs, and return to their own aquarium.[9]” This undoubtedly refers to octopuses. I once read a paper describing how one octopus learned a procedure by watching another octopus do it. If it involved a reasonable way to compose a message in Gmail, I wish I had an octopus to show me how to do that.

  25. Douglas Anderson
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Apparently the paper DOES exist –
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0079610718300798?via%3Dihub

    Cause of Cambrian Explosion – Terrestrial or Cosmic?
    Author links open overlay panelEdward J.SteeleajShirwanAl-MuftibKenneth A.AugustyncRohanaChandrajithdJohn P.CoghlaneS.G.CoulsonbSudiptoGhoshfMarkGillmangReginald M.GorczynskihBrigKlycebGodfreyLouisiKithsiriMahanamajKeith R.OliverkJulioPadronlJiangwenQumJohn A.SchusternW.E.SmithoDuane P.Snyderb…YongshengLiuvw

    Abstract
    We review the salient evidence consistent with or predicted by the Hoyle-Wickramasinghe (H-W) thesis of Cometary (Cosmic) Biology. Much of this physical and biological evidence is multifactorial. One particular focus are the recent studies which date the emergence of the complex retroviruses of vertebrate lines at or just before the Cambrian Explosion of ∼500 Ma. Such viruses are known to be plausibly associated with major evolutionary genomic processes. We believe this coincidence is not fortuitous but is consistent with a key prediction of H-W theory whereby major extinction-diversification evolutionary boundaries coincide with virus-bearing cometary-bolide bombardment events. A second focus is the remarkable evolution of intelligent complexity (Cephalopods) culminating in the emergence of the Octopus. A third focus concerns the micro-organism fossil evidence contained within meteorites as well as the detection in the upper atmosphere of apparent incoming life-bearing particles from space. In our view the totality of the multifactorial data and critical analyses assembled by Fred Hoyle, Chandra Wickramasinghe and their many colleagues since the 1960s leads to a very plausible conclusion – life may have been seeded here on Earth by life-bearing comets as soon as conditions on Earth allowed it to flourish (about or just before 4.1 Billion years ago); and living organisms such as space-resistant and space-hardy bacteria, viruses, more complex eukaryotic cells, fertilised ova and seeds have been continuously delivered ever since to Earth so being one important driver of further terrestrial evolution which has resulted in considerable genetic diversity and which has led to the emergence of mankind.

    Reading the Abstract would seem to indicate that this was either not peer reviewed or that it was peer reviewed by those who have an alternative view of science. Especially when one reads the last part of the abstract!

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted May 14, 2018 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      Paper already linked at comment # 18 by Dominic

  26. grasshopper
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    The history of life is written in the stars – in octopus ink!

  27. freiner
    Posted May 14, 2018 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    I’m not so quick to dismiss. Don’t astronomers talk about cephalopod variable stars?

    • Posted May 14, 2018 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps this explains the strange variability of Tabby’s Star (KIC 8462852). It must be surrounded by an octopus waving its arms and blocking its light.

      • freiner
        Posted May 14, 2018 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        You took the words right out of my mouth.

  28. freiner
    Posted May 15, 2018 at 5:31 am | Permalink

    Kang and Kodos! Of course, why it take me so long to realize it?

  29. Posted May 15, 2018 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    There are no paleontologists or evolutionary biologists among the authors, but there are quite a few “astrobiologists” (including Chandra Wickamasinghe, of course). It’s a curious discipline: at the moment, pending the discovery of life beyond Earth, it has absolutely nothing to study.

    I wonder how this long article got published in an Elsevier Group journal. Was it by invitation, bypassing the normal course of peer review, or what?

    • Posted May 16, 2018 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      One can look for indicators, though.

      • Posted May 16, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        But there are astrobiologists, and there are self-styled “astrobiologists”. Those who co-authored the paper deserve the quotation marks.

      • Posted May 16, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        But there are astrobiologists, and there are self-styled “astrobiologists”. Those who co-authored the paper deserve the quotation marks.

  30. Zetopan
    Posted May 19, 2018 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    That particular Wickramasinghe testified for the creationist side at the “Scopes 2 [sic] Trial” [1]. He was quickly discredited by the evolution side (he considers the tenets of evolution to be “ridiculous”) since he had also claimed that insects are smarter than people but they are concealing it.

    So is Wickramasinghe actually an insect since he “knows” a thing that is concealed from humans, or by “people” does he mean himself specifically?

    Wickramasinghe even angered the creationists (who had paid for his flight to testify on their behalf) by correctly answering a question from the rational science side about the age of the Earth, stating that it was far older than thousands of years and no rational person could believe otherwise.

    Unsurprisingly, he has also claimed that the Archaeopteryx fossil is a fake (along with Fred Hoyle)[2].

    That Wickramasinghe is a first order crank.

    NOTES:
    [1]https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4726786

    [2]https://www.nytimes.com/1985/05/07/science/authenticity-of-bird-fossil-is-challenged.html

  31. Zetopan1
    Posted May 19, 2018 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    That particular Wickramasinghe testified for the creationist side at the “Scopes 2 [sic] Trial” [1]. He was quickly discredited by the evolution side (he considers the tenets of evolution to be “ridiculous”) since he had also claimed that insects are smarter than people but they are concealing it.

    So is Wickramasinghe actually an insect since he “knows” a thing that is concealed from humans, or by “people” does he mean himself specifically?

    Wickramasinghe even angered the creationists (who had paid for his flight to testify on their behalf) by correctly answering a question from the rational science side about the age of the Earth, stating that it was far older than thousands of years and no rational person could believe otherwise.

    Unsurprisingly, he has also claimed that the Archaeopteryx fossil is a fake (along with Fred Hoyle)[2].

    That Wickramasinghe is a first order crank.

    NOTES:
    [1]https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4726786

    [2]https://www.nytimes.com/1985/05/07/science/authenticity-of-bird-fossil-is-challenged.html

    • Zetopan
      Posted May 19, 2018 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      Sorry about the repeated postings, we were trying to debug why I could not post. In any case here is more information about Wickramasinghe that should answer or correct a few statements made by others above.

      Wickramasinghe even has his own crank journal on the web, where he is the main submitter and acts as a journal editor and reviewer[3].

      He also claims to have proven that bacteria exist in outer space by using radar and infrared (those wavelengths are much too long for bacteria detection), and even that diatoms come from meteorites[4].

      He has also lost his job at the “Centre for Astrobiology”, Buckingham University, which shut down that entire department due to its scientific uselessness.

      [3]http://journalofcosmology.com
      [4]http://journalofcosmology.com/JOC21/PolonnaruwaRRRR.pdf

  32. Kev
    Posted May 19, 2018 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    A French friend of a friend of mine called at the workshop one day and asked me if she could see the “Octopus”. Something had got lost in translation between English, French and Italian, and she really meant Octobass:

    Vive la difference!

    • Kev
      Posted May 19, 2018 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

      I attached a youtube link for Octobass, but it seems to have got lost;
      I’ll try again:


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