[Octopuses can squirt water at an annoyingly bright bulb until it short-circuits. They can tell humans apart (even those who are wearing the same uniform). And, according to Peter Godfrey-Smith, a philosophy professor at University of Sydney and City University of New York, they are the closest creature to an alien here on earth.
There’s no clear way of evaluating consciousness in other animals (or in other humans, for that matter—it’s quite possible that you’re the only conscious being alive and everyone you know is merely displaying signs of consciousness rather than truly experiencing it). But we can certainly make educated guesses. Broadly speaking, consciousness is often defined as there being an experience of what it’s like to be said creature.
Octopuses display signs of curiosity, and Godfrey-Smith believes it’s extremely likely that they’re conscious beings. “I think the exploratory behaviors, the fact that they attend to things, they have good eyes, they evaluate, are little bits of good evidence that there’s something it’s like to be an octopus.”]
Last month, Christopher Bae of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Wei Wang of the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities in Nanning, China, and their colleagues announced the discovery of two teeth from the Luna cave in China’s Guangxi Zhuang region, which testing suggests belonged to an early Homo sapiens.
The study, published in Quaternary International, revealed that calcite crystals, which formed as water flowed over the teeth and the cave floor, date them to between 70,000 and 125,000 years ago. So Bae and Wang say they are evidence of an early wave of modern humans in eastern Asia.
A few weeks ago, scientists announced an intriguing finding about the ancestors of today’s Native Americans. Previously, genetic analysis had indicated that they’d left Siberia to migrate across ancient Beringia (the strip of land that once connected Asia and what’s now Alaska) about 25,000 years ago, but the earliest evidence of human habitation on North America dates to 15,000 years ago.