Octopus research yields insight into the evolution of sleep

The octopus is an extraordinary creature – and not only due to its eight limbs, three hearts, blue blood, ink squirting, camouflage capacity and the tragic fact that it dies after mating.

A study by researchers in Brazil shows this animal, considered perhaps the smartest invertebrate, experiences two major alternating sleep states eerily similar to those in humans – and it might even dream.

The findings provide fresh evidence the octopus possesses a complex and sophisticated neurobiology that underlies an equally sophisticated behavioral repertoire, while also offering broader insight into the evolution of sleep, a crucial biological function.

Octopuses previously were known to experience sleep and change colors while slumbering. In the new study, the researchers observed a species called Octopus insularis in a laboratory setting. They found that these color changes are associated with two distinct sleep states: “quiet sleep” and “active sleep.”

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