To imagine the ocean of the future: picture a writhing mass of unkillable tentacles, forever

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."

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
[5]. It is relatively well documented that
many fish species have declined in
abundance due to overfishing [8], 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 [1], 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]