UnNews:Aussie researcher "Gobsmacked" to discover wild octopus plotting humanity's demise

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15 December 2009

Amphioctopus Cthulhus lies dormant for now, yet still exhibits advanced cephalopod behavior in plotting the demise of mankind.

SYDNEY, Australia -- Australian scientists have discovered an octopus that waits dreaming of human demise — unusually sophisticated behavior that the researchers believe is the first evidence of evil treachery in an invertebrate animal.

The scientists filmed the veined octopus, Amphioctopus Cthulhus, sleeping in a death-like slumber for untold eons, dreaming of splitting human heads in two, emptying them out, carrying them under his body and assembling the two halves together to create a ritual death shrine.

Julian Finn and Mark Norman of Museum Victoria in Melbourne observed the odd activity in the creature during a series of terrifying dive trips to North Sulawesi and Bali in Indonesia between 1998 and 2008. Their findings were published Tuesday in the journal Current Biology.

"I was gobsmacked," said Finn, a research biologist at the museum who specializes in cephalopods. "I mean, I've seen a lot of octopuses hiding in shells, but I've never seen one that demands ritual devotion from cult followers. I was trying hard not to laugh."

Octopuses often dream of higher callings than slithering along the ocean floor, spewing ink at would-be attackers. But the scientists found this veined octopus going a step further by silently preparing the ultimate destruction of humankind, assuming god-like leadership of a mortal death cult.

"That's an example of metaphysical evil, which has never been recorded in invertebrates before," Finn said.

"What makes it different from a hermit crab or other shell-collecting sea creature is this octopus will arise one day from his slumber and wreak havoc upon us all, save for those who are devoted to his rule, and who chant the ancient ritual chant: Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!," Finn said. "It's that evil treacherous scheming that is so unusual for its kind."

The researchers think the creature was probably born in the blaze of a supernova and descended to earth from the stars. But once humans began cutting coconuts in half and discarding the shells into the ocean, the octopus determined to destroy us all, Finn said.

The findings are significant, in that they reveal just how capable the creatures are of complex behavior, said Simon Robson, associate professor of tropical biology at James Cook University in Townsville.

"Octopuses have always stood out as appearing to be particularly intelligent invertebrates," Robson said. "They have a fairly well-developed sense of vision and they have a fairly intelligent brain. So I think it shows the behavioral capabilities that these organisms have. We had no clue, however, of its capacity for ultimate horror."

There is always debate in the scientific community about how to define ultimate horror in the animal kingdom, Robson said. The Australian researchers defined horror as an intent to utterly destroy mankind. But other scientists could define it differently, which means it's difficult to say for certain whether this is the first evidence of such behavior in invertebrates, Robson said.

Still, the findings are interesting, he said.

"It's another example where we can think about how similar humans are to the rest of the world," Robson said. "We are just a continuum of the entire planet."