What's an Octopus Fossil Look Like?

As boneless, gelatinous bags, octopuses rarely find themselves preserved as fossils but just this week it was announced in the journal Palaeontology that three new 95,000,000 year old octopus fossils have been discovered. These are the oldest on record. So what does an octopus fossil look like? Apparently, like something your elementary school child would create in art class when asked to create an octopus fossil.

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The precursors to modern octopuses had fins that ran alongside their bodies but these fossils do not. "These are sensational fossils, extraordinarily well preserved' says Dirk Fuchs of the Freie University Berlin, lead author of the report. But what surprised the scientists most was how similar the specimens are to modern octopus: "these things are 95 million years old, yet one of the fossils is almost indistinguishable from living species." All of this raises an obvious question: if octopuses were so sophisticated 95 million years ago, why aren't they running things right now?! Clearly god did not favor the octopus.

As this is "cephalopod" and "science" related, it stands to reason that PZ Meyers beat us to it, which he did. Get your fix for buccal masses and gladial vestiges over there.

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What's to say that this isn't a fossil of some kid's art project from 95,000,000 years ago?

I mean, apart from science.

By the_heckle (not verified) on 19 Mar 2009 #permalink

Andrew, you're a smashing biologist, but if you don't remember the Cephalopod Revolutions, you need to brush up on your history. We don't want to give them ideas and see a repeat of the Tentacly Massacre of '67.

I thought the plural of octopus was octopi or something like that. :P

Very cool fossils! Unfortunately, your link above doesn't take you to the recent paper in the journal "Palaeontology", it take you to "Journal of Paleontology". Thought I should let you know.

'...if octopuses were so sophisticated 95 million years ago, why aren't they running things right now?! Clearly god did not favor the octopus.'

Perhaps having a throat that goes through your brain is a sign of not being favoured by god.

'I thought the plural of octopus was octopi or something like that. :P '

Something vaguely like that, but not that since it's from the Greek, so 'us' doesn't pluralise to 'i'; I think the proper Greek pluralisation sounds so bizarre even '...uses' sounds better. Same with platypodes.

By strangetruther (not verified) on 23 Mar 2009 #permalink

Very cool fossils! Unfortunately, your link above doesn't take you to the recent paper in the journal "Palaeontology", it take you to "Journal of Paleontology". Thought I should let you know.

Very cool fossils! Unfortunately, your link above doesn't take you to the recent paper in the journal "Palaeontology", it take you to "Journal of Paleontology". Thought I should let you know.

Andrew, you're a smashing biologist, but if you don't remember the Cephalopod Revolutions, you need to brush up on your history. We don't want to give them ideas and see a repeat of the Tentacly Massacre of '67.

Why aren't octopuses running things right now? Because they *are* smart! Much happier as they are. But if we keep up the global warming, perhaps they'll step (squidge?) in...