Octopuses may be so terrifyingly smart because they share humans’ genes for intelligence

Octopuses are brainy creatures with sophisticated smarts, and now scientists have uncovered a clue that may partly explain the cephalopods’ remarkable intelligence: Its genes have a genetic quirk that is also seen in humans, a new study finds.

The clues that scientists uncovered are called “jumping genes,” or transposons, and they make up 45% of the human genome. Jumping genes are short sequences of DNA with the ability to copy and paste or cut and paste themselves to another location in the genome, and they’ve been linked to the evolution of genomes in multiple species. Genetic sequencing recently revealed that two species of octopus — Octopus vulgaris and Octopus bimaculoides — also have genomes that are filled with transposons, according to a study published May 18 in the journal BMC Biology.

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