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Watch: Octopus Filmed Dreaming?

By Tim Binnall

A mesmerizing video of a sleeping octopus shows the creature changing colors in a manner which suggests that it may be dreaming. The remarkable footage was released by PBS as a preview for a forthcoming documentary showcasing the work of marine biologist David Scheel as he studies an octopus dubbed 'Heidi' that he keeps in his home. In the clip, he marvels that "last night, I witnessed something that I'd never seen recorded before."

In the moment that left the marine biologist amazed, the body of the sleeping octopus inexplicably begins displaying different colors and patterns. Based on the nature of these changes, Scheel not only theorized that the creature was dreaming, but that it was possible to surmise what sort of scene might have been unfolding in her mind. To that end, he first imagined that "she sees a crab and her color starts to change a little bit, then she turns all dark, octopuses will do that when they leave the bottom."

When Heidi's color changes once again, Scheel explained that this particular pattern "is a camouflage, like she's just subdued a crab and now she's going to sit there and eat it, and she doesn't want anyone to notice her." While he could not outright say that the octopus is dreaming, the marine biologist noted "it's a very unusual behavior to see the color come and go on her mantle like that" as she slept, suggesting that something fairly unique was occurring in the creature's mind that caused her body to react the way that it did.

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