You can't vaccinate an octopus

In a piece on octopus farming, Katherine Harmon mentions a fascinating fact — octopuses don't have an adaptive immune system, the handy-dandy network of different immune-response cells that allow us vertebrates to more easily fight off infections our bodies have encountered before.

That's a problem if you're trying to raise a bunch of invertebrates in close quarters (as per a farm) because you can't immunize them against pathogens that could easily spread from one octopus to another. As a random biological tidbit, though, it's just damned fascinating. Check out this doctoral thesis for more information on how the octopus immune system does work. You should also read this story that looks at the evolution of the adaptive immune system and asks a key question — does having immune "memory" really make us that much better off than the animals that don't have it?

Image: Octopus, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from alicecai's photostream

Notable Replies

  1. Check out this doctoral thesis

    Your faith in us is . . . inspiring!

  2. Having an innate immune system seems to work best for animals that have a short life span, a limited territory, and an ability to repopulate quickly if the population crashes.

  3. Ethel says:

    Whoa, I just had my mind blown. Never ever thought about the immune system being a relatively new thing in evolution or confined to chordata... Wow. So, if Preston Sturges is correct, that would imply that r reproducers who happen to have a spinal chord could have a limited immune system that little energy was devoted to. In particular the rats and mice that have great surges of populations every few cycles... Huh. My computer won't let me open the links which means I am sad but it is an investment issue, evolutionary issue, or energetic issue?

  4. Indeed. 266 pages. Granted half of that is in Spanish (thus making it interesting to read the English and Spanish in parallel). Hopping down to the 'conclusions' helps in reading quickly. I noticed that the author used one of my favorite transcriptome tools -- Trinity -- for initial assembly.

  5. To be fair you do have to 8 arms to deal with.

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