If you’re at all familiar with my work, you probably know that I love cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish, octopuses, nautilus, even extinct cephalopods like ammonites) and paint them often. There are lots of reasons I choose to paint these fascinating creatures alongside the space scenes in my work: they are beautiful and strange-looking, and can even appear alien-like (note that sci-fi aliens are often portrayed as having tentacles). Cephalopods are also extremely intelligent, with some species of octopus being known to use tools and solve complex problems. And since this intelligence evolved independently from that of humans and other mammals—an octopus is more closely related to a clam than a human—it is the closest to an alien intelligence that humanity has so far witnessed. It serves as an example of another form that intelligence can take in living beings. The structure of a cephalopod’s nervous system makes this clear: rather than having just a large centralized brain, they also have high numbers of neurons in their arms, which can make some decisions independently of the brain. A hypothetical intelligent alien species may just as likely develop intelligence in a similarly decentralized way rather than having human-like brains. Cephalopods are a humbling reminder that intelligence can take many forms and they provide us a chance to study how it may come about via different systems.
Watch the video below for some fascinating information about cephalopod nervous systems and behaviors.