Today’s Solutions: March 01, 2024

They are alarmingly intelligent and can solve puzzles. They can change their color to blend into their surroundings and they can squeeze themselves through tiny spaces. Is it any wonder that octopuses, being some of the most adaptable creatures on the planet, may even pre-date the dinosaurs? 

In My Octopus Teacher, a small South African octopus stunned audiences with its incredible ability to bond with a human being. Once again, these amazing creatures fill us with awe seeing their impressive history. Scientists have uncovered a fossil in Montana that they believe to be the first ancestor of an octopus. 

The fossil is approximately 330 million years old, 100 million years before the first dinosaurs appeared in the Triassic Period. 

The newest creature, and one of the oldest

The creature has been named Syllipsimopodi bideni and is a kind vampyropod, which is a descendent of both octopuses and vampire squid. Before the Syllipsimopodi bideni was dated 240 million years ago. 

This fossil was actually sitting in a lab drawer for years before scientists took a closer look at it and saw that it had ten limbs with tiny suction cups on them. 

“It’s very rare to find soft tissue fossils, except in a few places,” said Mike Vecchione, a Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History zoologist. “This is a very exciting finding. It pushes back the ancestry much farther than previously known.”

Not only did this fossil encased in limestone have ten limbs — yes, modern octopuses only have eight — it also had an ink sac with which it confused its predators hundreds of millions of years ago. This octopus ancestor was small too, the fossil showing it was only 4.7 inches long. It was discovered in Montana’s Bear Gulch limestone formation and likely lived at a time when the area was a warm-water and shallow bay. 

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