Temperature and Tentacles

Chilly… frozen fresh… octopodes?!


This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.


Octopuses experience drastic temperature changes in the ocean. But they can’t regulate their body temperature like mammals. So, how do they stay warm? 


Matthew Birk and team from the Marine Biological Laboratory of Woods Hole, Massachusetts investigated. 


They acclimated a group of octopuses to a warm tank over one week. Then the temperature was drastically lowered. A second group of octopuses was acclimated to a cold tank for a week, then the temperature was raised. The researchers then examined the genetic makeup of the two groups. 




They discovered that octopuses rewrite their RNA – a molecule that helps translate DNA into functioning proteins. This allows octopuses to start acclimating quickly, in one day! By day four, they fully adapted to both cold and hot tanks. Next step is studying how they adapt to changes in oxygen and social environments.


Why else would octopuses need to alter their genes? Because they have so many legs….

Reference (APA-style)

Birk, M. A., Liscovitch-Brauer, N., Dominguez, M. J., McNeme, S., Yue, Y., Hoff, J. D., Twersky, I., Verhey, K. J., Sutton, R. B., Eisenberg, E., & Rosenthal, J. J. C. (2023). Temperature-dependent RNA editing in octopus extensively recodes the neural proteome. Cell, 186(12). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2023.05.004