While people are generally familiar with how genius octopuses are, there’s always more to learn about the alien creatures’ IQs. In a new clip BBC Earth recently posted to YouTube, we get a glimpse of a marine biologist testing to see whether or not he can teach his pet octopus to ring an alarm and summon her owner—essentially teaching the octopus to turn on a light. Spoiler alert: She effortlessly mastered the task. So much so, in fact, we’re slightly suspicious as to whose idea this experiment really was in the first place.
In the clip above from the 2019 BBC series The Octopus In My House, David Scheel, a professor of marine biology at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage, demonstrates how he taught his (temporary) pet octopus, Heidi, how to use the alarm. As Scheel notes, he wanted to update an experiment Harvard researchers performed in 1959: one in which they trained an octopus to pull a lever inside of its tank for a reward.
As Scheel shows in the clip, Heidi had no issue learning how to use his updated lever. Now placed outside the tank. Critically, the marine biologist shows how he was able to test whether or not Heidi has a mental conception of who he is even when he’s not in sight. He did so by rigging the lever to an old-timey buzzer and lightbulb to work as an alarm Heidi could use to summon him from anywhere in his house.
Of course, Scheel shows how he used pieces of shrimp as a reward for sounding the alarm. Which means Heidi was at least able to associate pulling the rope and seeing a light with incoming food. Although that’s just us speculating. We can only imagine how dark and twisted the minds of these Lovecraftian deep-sea intelligences really are.
Unfortunately, Scheel explains in the clip that he ultimately had to end the experiment soon after its initial successful run. Apparently Heidi began to ring the alarm at all hours of the night and Scheel wasn’t having it. Although who knows what Heidi was thinking. Maybe she intentionally ended the experiment because she was sick of shrimp.