In Global proliferation of cephalopods a paper in Current Biology, an esteemed group of marine biologists reports that the population of octopuses (and other cephalopods) is booming thanks to its ability to adapt quickly to ocean acidification and temperature change, which is killing off other types of marine life at alarming rates.
The researchers used by-catch numbers (the numbers of cephalopods accidentally netted by commercial fishermen) as a proxy for population numbers.
At this rate, as Annalee Newitz points out, "cephalopods may be among the species who are poised to survive a mass extinction in the oceans, leading to a future marine ecosystem ruled by tentacles."
Elevated temperatures, for instance, are thought to accelerate the life cycles of cephalopods, provided the optimal thermal range of the species is not exceeded and food is not limited. Further, it has been hypothesised that the global depletion of fish stocks, together with the potential release of cephalopods from predation and competition pressure, could be driving the growth in cephalopod populations . It is relatively well documented that many fish species have declined in abundance due to overfishing , and several regional studies have suggested that cephalopod populations have increased where local fi sh populations have declined (albeit casual mechanisms have not been identifi ed; Supplemental Information) [5, 9]. However, a range of other environmental factors, such as changing current systems and climatic cycles, increases in extreme weather events, eutrophication and habitat modifi cation , could also potentially confer a competitive advantage to cephalopods over longer-lived, slowergrowing marine taxa.
Global proliferation of cephalopods [Zoë A. Doubleday, Thomas A.A. Prowse, Alexander Arkhipkin, Graham J. Pierce, Jayson Semmens, Michael Steer, Stephen C. Leporati, Sílvia Lourenço, Antoni Quetglas, Warwick Sauer, Bronwyn M. Gillanders/Current Biology]
Octopuses may indeed be your new overlords [Annalee Newitz/Ars Technica]