Dreams of an Octopus

When we go to sleep, a whole new world awakens. A world of dreaming.
Dreams has puzzled mankind though out history. Ever since the first bonfires were made, stories inspired by dreamlike scenarios has been shared, - dream predations, and even otherworldly assumptions to what we may explore or learn about the univers and ourselves when dozing off.


Photo by Julia Kadel

In ancient Egypt, dating all the way back to 2000 BC, Egyptians wrote down their dreams on papyrus, since they believed that dreams were messages from their gods.

In Greece, a theory was made about the 5th century BC, that dreams, were a reflection of the soul.

Simply put, - the soul would receive images during the day, and produce images during the night.

"Eksampels like these are endless, - and still today the nature of dreams are not fully understood."

Dreams vary to each individual. As well as our understanding of dreams, - how vivid they might be, experiencing colors / black white, our ability taste, feel and smell while dreaming, - and so on.


So when combining this incomplete understanding of dreams, with the yet magnificent world below surface, - something entirely new can be questioned…

Are dreams a human privilege alone ? Or do we share this ability with the undersea inhabitants ?


We know dreaming isn’t for “humans only”, since dogs have been known for chasing cats while dreaming for many years. This was also scientifically proved in 1977, - by dreamtesting dogs.

Dogs are mans best friend, - therefore the interest in getting to know more about what ones dearest pet might be dreaming about, was much highlyer desired, -than the knowledge about the dreamworld of a parrotfish.


Once again, - the peculiarity that of a fish, lowered the interest for exploring what fascinating dreamscapes they might be exploring when asleep.


Though, one thing is certain - Fish do also dream !


"Yet still today, - it is uncertain what fish dream about, since they dont change expressions, nor make sounds, that are instant understandable for humans. But one special marine animal does actually change expressions and make twitches while asleep. The Octopus."
Photo by Qijin Xu

Dreamtesting is often done by testing Rapid eye movement sleep (R.E.M.).


R.E.M. sleep is a type of sleep seen in humans, dogs, cats, birds and a lot of other land living beings. This is a stage of sleeping, where the eyes move rapidly in different directions. Though this phase of sleep has never been seen done by sleeping Octopuses,

- Octopuses still have a sort of flicker, which can somewhat be compared to R.E.M.


There has been made several Octopus and Squid sleep experiments and dreamtesting over the years, - but it wasn't until last year a major break though happened !


An Octopus named Heidi was filmed while sleeping, - and this video, filmed for a documentary called “Octopus: Making Contact” showed something spectacular.


Heidi sat still near the surface in an aquarium. And as she slept, she changed colors. Flashes of blood red - pale white - bright yellow and deep green. Her skin changed as well, - from smooth to bumpy. Twitches in her arms from time to time, and an almost sizzling movement at some point during her dozing. All the different movements she made, as well as color and skin change, reminded of a person power-napping on a sofa, dreaming about falling off a cliff - or mumbling numbers for the dreamland bank account.

Photo by Julia Kadel

Scientists are still not sure what Octopuses are dreaming about.


Some scientists believe that Octopuses are dreaming about hunting - mind training their techniques to, for instance lure and catch a tricky crab…

Other scientists believe, that Octopuses dreams are a way for them to process and store memories, - which could also explain why Octopuses and Cephalopods in general, make such fast learners and it could also explain even more about their intelligence.


Also this year, yet another perspective on dreaming Octopuses was placed on the table. This perspective rushing the fact, that Octopuses are nothing like humans, - and questioning : How we honestly could say (with accuracy) that Heidi the Octopus was dreaming ?

An argument often used my scientists is that, we humans often wish to weave animals into human characteristics, in order to make the animals more relatable to us.

And some scientists found, this was the case, concerning dreaming Octopuses.

Photo by Daniel Mayorga

Heidi´s color change could be caused by simple muscle twitches, - which also controlles the color changing organs in an Octopus.

A part of these scientists argumentation, regarding their skepticism towards octopuses dreamlands, was also that we can´t ´be certain that Octopuses dreams are completely like the dreams of humans.


But this is a tricky argument, since we aren't able to define an overall finished and polished dream model for human beings.

“Its a catch 22. How could we rule out the possibility that Octopuses and other Cephalopods has dreamworlds, just as magnificent, divers and individual as humans, - when we are not sure exactly how we define the human dreamworld ? Simple answer, - we can’t.”

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