The extraordinary intelligence of the octopus could derive from some 'dancing' genes that move from one point to another in the DNA: also present in the human brain, they could be associated with cognitive abilities such as learning and memory.
This is indicated by an international research coordinated by Remo Sanges of the International School of Advanced Studies (Sissa) of Trieste and by Graziano Fiorito of the Anton Dohrn Zoological Station of Naples.
The results, obtained in collaboration with the Italian Institute of Technology (Iit), are published in the journal BMC Biology.
Thanks to the most advanced genetic sequencing techniques, the researchers discovered that the octopus's DNA (like that of humans) is rich in fragments of 'dancing' genes (transposons) that can move from one point of the genome to another, moving or by duplicating itself through molecular copy-paste or cut-paste mechanisms.
In most cases these moving elements remain inactive.
Focusing on those still able to copy-paste, the researchers identified a mobile element (belonging to the family of the so-called Long Interspersed Nuclear Elements, Line) which is located in a portion of the brain (the vertical lobe) that is crucial. for the cognitive abilities of octopuses.
For Giuseppe Petrosino of the Zoological Station and Stefano Gustincich of the IIT "this analogy between man and the octopus could be a fascinating example of convergent evolution, a phenomenon for which, in two genetically distant species, the same molecular process develops in independently, in response to similar needs ".