Octopuses look strange, they are eerily intelligent and have a strange power. And that could mean they are aliens. REUTERS / Jon Nazca
Octopuses are rare. This is not just because they seem strange. It's not because they are disturbingly intelligent. It's because they have a strange power.
The ability to edit their own bodies. This has biologists scratching their heads.
Evolution does not work that way. It is supposed to be stimulated by genetic mutations, a change in DNA, which is beneficial to the host.
So how could a creature evolve in such a way as to allow them to reconstruct themselves?
Now a new train of thought has emerged.
They did not. At least, not here. Instead, it is an advanced biological ability that came from outer space.
In April last year, researchers discovered that octopuses, and some of their sepia and squid cousins, regularly edit their RNA.  This differentiates them from the rest of the animal world.
RNA, like DNA, registers the genetic code. But when DNA is a double-stranded molecule, RNA consists of a single chain. Its role within our body is to transmit genetic information to trigger the production of proteins.
But some scientists believe that the RNA could have been the original DNA, acting as a permanent repository of genetic code among the first organisms on Earth.
When it comes to cephalopods as the common squid, researchers have discovered that up to 60 percent of the RNA in their nervous system has been edited after being programmed by DNA. These changes adapted his brain to the changing temperatures in his oceanic habitat.
Last year, two species of octopus and one species of cuttlefish were discovered to do the same thing, routinely.
"This shows high levels of RNA editing … (is) an invention of the coleoid cephalopods," said US Marine Biological Laboratory researcher Joshua Rosenthal.
It is not yet known how this capacity is triggered or controlled.
"It could be something as simple as temperature changes or as complicated as experience, a form of memory," says Rosenthal.
But the ability to reshape physiology on the fly has come at a price.
Coleoids are not evolving very much.
This could be because the disk drive is not there: they discovered that editing RNA is a way to adapt and change. Then your DNA does not need to change.
"The conclusion here is that to maintain this flexibility to edit the RNA, the coleoids have had to abandon the ability to evolve in the surrounding regions, much," Rosenthal wrote
The origin of life on Earth is one of the hardest nuts to decipher from science. We know a lot about the chemistry involved. But not the circumstances that unite everything in a living being.
There is still a gap in our understanding big enough for the gods and other extraordinary ideas to fit inside.
It is the idea that life began here, with dispersions of organic molecules that transmit their preprogrammed codes for life through the abyss of time and space.
Lack of evidence.
But the idea is being examined.
Now a couple reviewed article published in the scientific journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology is stirring pot of origins of life.
The recent Rosetta mission to Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko confirmed organic molecules that form the base of sugars and amino acids were sprinkled between their mounds and valleys of frozen ice.
It's not life.
But these materials are the building blocks of DNA.
The new report, Cause of the Earth or Earth Cambrian Explosion? argues that our existence is not based solely on these interplanetary building blocks.
Instead, build the idea that our biochemistry has been contaminated by influences from beyond our own planet.
The authors argue that a cloud of organic matter probably rained on Earth about 500 million years ago. And that changed everything.
The Cambrian Explosion is certainly mysterious. It was a period of time where life on Earth diversified dramatically and rapidly.
It is an event that took place shortly after the appearance of retroviruses in our environment.
It was especially dramatic for a type of mollusk called a cephalopod. The tentacles stretched from their shells and made their way to a huge variety of creatures that eventually became the octopus, cuttlefish and squid we know today.
"We believe that this coincidence is not fortuitous, but is consistent with a key prediction … the main evolutionary limits of diversification-extinction coincide with events of bombardment cometary-fireball with virus," says the summary of the study.
This idea is that retroviruses transported through space finally reached the surface of the Earth before joining living organisms. Once there, they reprogrammed the evolution of the creatures.
"A second approach is the remarkable evolution of intelligent complexity (cephalopods) that culminates in the appearance of the octopus," says the study.
"A third focus refers to the fossil evidence microorganism contained within meteorites as well as the detection in the upper atmosphere of apparent incoming particles that carry life from space."
The paper argues that the space-based transfer of life was probably on a larger scale than just retroviruses. Whole sets of frozen genetic material were thrown over the stellar winds before spilling into our oceans.
Here, they were thawed.
"Therefore, the possibility that cryopreserved squid eggs and / or octopi came to frozen pockets several hundred millions of years ago should not be ruled out," says the study.
Therefore, octopuses are extraterrestrial.
It's an interesting conjecture. It is an idea that fits the circumstances. But no concrete evidence has yet been produced. The idea has not yet been proven.
But it's tempting.
"Life could have been planted here on Earth by comets that were alive as soon as conditions on Earth allowed them to bloom (approximately 4.1 billion years ago), and living organisms such as space-resistant bacteria and resistant to space, viruses, more complex eukaryotic cells, fertilized ovules and seeds have been continuously delivered to Earth, thus being an important driver of terrestrial evolution that has resulted in considerable genetic diversity and has led to the emergence of humanity "
This story originally appeared in the news. com.au.