Review of Animals: Octopus - Evolutionary Quibbles

Just a few points I'd like to discuss for the purpose of clarity, as some lines stuck out to me from an evolutionary perspective. This would probably make more sense in a comment section on the article, but alas.

So octopi had to figure out camouflage, hunting skills, and evasion strategies.

Might be slight nitpicking, but this point is evolutionarily misleading. Traits are selected for based on whether they contribute to survival (or reproductive success); they're not an active choice by the organism. This is a pretty common misconception among non-biologists, but can lead to a pretty weird idea of how natural selection works. This can also be found when people talk about giraffes had to grow long necks or chameleons worked to be able to camouflage, even though these traits arose through random mutations and were selected for and grew in frequency within the population through selection, not by any conscious choice of the organism.

That means their intelligence evolved in parallel with — but removed from — the evolutionary pathways that led to human intelligence.

This sentence doesn't really mean anything from a scientific perspective. All intelligence within every organism evolved in parallel with human intelligence...all evolution occurs in parallel and evolution isn't necessarily progressive. Some organisms' ancestors may have even been "smarter" (in a anthropocentric sense) 200 or 300 million years ago, but their intelligence still evolved in parallel with human intelligence. Other organisms may be roughly similar in intelligence to their ancestors...that's still an example of evolution, especially if they're suited to their environment. Mutations arise, positive/negative/neutral selection acts on them, genetic drift occurs,'s all evolution.

I know the reviews are all meant to be for fun and obviously come from the common premise that closer to human = better (e.g., the social network quibbles, the picture of the octopus in a suit, cannibalism issue even though it makes sense from an energy/genetic competition perspective for numerous organisms), but I still thought it'd be nice if the evolutionary arguments were more in line with evolutionary theory.