The Octopus: Honorary Vertebrate?

Source, Lowering the Bar: The Octopus: Honorary Vertebrate?

It gets intellectually exhausting to report on stuff like, I don’t know, lawsuits. Real lawsuits, that is. People sort of lawsuits.

So it comes as a treat like Lilac Chocolates’ chocolate covered ginger things to see this story:

The Octopus: Honorary Vertebrate?

Those of you who specialize in octopus law already know this, of course, but I just learned that at least in the European Union the octopus is treated as a vertebrate for certain legal purposes.

If knowing this doesn’t seem important to you, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be doing something billable? [Note: Kevin Underhill, who writes this marvelous blog, is a lawyer.]

Anyway, this has to do with laws that set certain conditions to protect animals that may be used in scientific research. It appears that these laws traditionally have only applied to vertebrates, probably because vertebrates have more highly developed nervous systems and so a greater ability to feel pain, emotions, and so forth, but probably also because invertebrates are way creepier. But octopuses are recognized as an exception, not to the creepiness thing but to the general principle that invertebrates are less intelligent.



The extent of octopus intelligence is debated, at least among vertebrates, but there is evidence of pretty complex behavior, including possible tool use. See, e.g., J.K. Finn, T. Tregenza, and M.D. Norman, “Defensive tool use in a coconut-carrying octopus,” 19 Current Biology 1069 (2009). The evidence was enough to convince the UK to grant protection to the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) in 1993, thus ironically granting it a certain elite status.

Enough! If I read too far here, I’ll stop eating octopus and I love octopus and prepare it really well, and maybe some day when I’m less intellectually exhausted, I’ll tell you how. (It’s easy.)

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