Despite his name, Squidward Tentacles, the grouchy neighbor of Spongebob in the well-known cartoon of Nickelodeon— this is not a squid. Is an octopus (apparently, the creator Stephen Hillenburg named him Squidward because «Pulpardo» sounded very unlikely). In the show, Squidward lives inside a head of moái in the 122 street Concha, next to the pineapple of Spongebob Squarepants in the underwater city of Bikini bottoms.
This sarcastic loner trying to escape the relentlessly animated sponge and his other neighbor, a lerda sea star named Patrick, staying at home, drinking tea and playing the clarinet.
Hillenburg, as many of the followers of the series know, used to be a marine biologist, and it turns out that the taste of Squidward by the domestic is something that share the octopus in the real world. Long ago it is known that the species collected pieces from the bottom of the sea to make ‘gardens’ or build your lair staff. But now comes evidence that Villa Tentacle —the exclusive community for cephalopods to which Squidward moves briefly during the second season of Sponge Bob— it is not just a fiction.
In Quartz, Ephrat Livni he wrote that the researchers have identified a community of 15 octopuses that live together in Jervis Bay, on the eastern coast of Australia. The discovery was surprising because it was thought that the members of this species, the octopus Sydney or octopus tetricus, were loners. Instead, the researchers observed «congregating, communicating, living, and even desalojándose each other out of their dens» in the cefalociudad, which the scientists called Octlantis (English octopus, i.e., octopus, mixed with Atlantis).
This is the second conclave of octopus that is located near the eastern end of Australia in recent years. The first, Octopolis (or Pulpópolis), was discovered in 2009, and was considered an anomaly at first.
Both Octlantis as Octopolis lie on rocky outcrops in areas of otherwise flat and bland on the marine floor. The principal investigator David Scheel Alaska Pacific University, speculates that the topography might have something to do with the taste of the octopus by the urban planning. «Congregations such as these probably occur when the housing is restricted to habitats small, and the food is plentiful», he said to Quartz (if the food were less abundant, presumably would be too busy fighting to live together for any period of time).
A plane Octlantis, one of these ‘cities of octopus’ identified by scientists (University of Illinois at Chicago).
However, the octopus not only chose the same outcrops of confident appearance. Once there, built batteries using shells of scallops, clams, and other animals that were feeding, then turned the batteries in dens, «which makes these octopuses real environmental engineers», as noted another researcher, Stephanie Chancellor. The creatures were so patient with each other as Squidward is with Spongebob on a bad day in the Crustacean Cascarudo, fighting and chasing each other in their dens, a phenomenon that the research team still do not understand.
The octopus they are not the only non-human animals that is dedicated to the architecture and the construction of ‘cities’. A hive can contain tens of thousands of bees, and construct your structure —the honeycomb— wax that worker bees produce, which then give way to cells of six sides to achieve the maximum compactness and efficiency of labour. The tiny termites can build mounds of earth and mushrooms as tall as a two story house. And the fire ants will climb over each other to build towers with their own bodies.
The octopuses are not part of a superorganism, as are those insects. They are mainly solitary creatures. But the complex social interactions that are required to establish a colony support the theory that they are much smarter than we suspected.
In 2009, the researchers observed the octopus crosslinked collecting halves of the husks of coconuts, to move them, and then assemble them as armor-protective—essentially, using them as tools. In zoos and aquariums, octopuses are known for their exhaust: can be dismounted their tanks when no one is looking. Each one of them has a different personality and come to form strong opinions about human beings that they know. These are not always good: an octopus at the New England Aquarium, sprinkled it with a jet of water at the same volunteer each time she visited him.
What makes the octopus an animal so extraordinary is its nervous system. Most of their neurons are in their tentacles. For human beings, it is difficult to conceptualize a type of intelligence in which the head plays a secondary role: what would it be like to think with the arms? Recent research also suggests that octopuses may be able to see with your skin, which allows them to blend in, changing color to resemble other animals.
There is still much that scientists do not know why the octopus create these miniature cities , and what they do there. But the idea of a city that can be navigated by using the limbs and the skin is tempting, and not very different, in fact, the field of the design touch, that seeks to «engage the whole person and not just their eyes», as has said the proponent Ellen Lupton (a good example of design touch is a pedestrian crossing multi-sensory with pavement texturing).
Neuroscience reveals that the human experience of the urban sites both through the movement of our bodies as of our conscious thoughts. And biomimetic architecture will apply principles of the natural world, tested over time to the problems of the human design. A building in Harare, Zimbabwe, uses a system of cooling based on the engineering of a termite nest. Why not build a building or city inspired by the octopus?
There is something very clear about the octopus: they have a strong instinct of protection. Its armor of shell, coco and dens of stone are means to defend against predators. As they evolved, the octopus lost their own shells, which allowed their bodies to move more, but also left them more exposed.
To go through life with a body soft and vulnerable, and to evade the danger by using ingenuity: that is something that human beings know so well. After all, security and collective self-defense are the main reasons why our species decided to overcome our fears of others and coming together to live in cities. Perhaps that is why we are fascinated by these wonderful creatures of the ocean depths who throw ink and build cities.
This article was originally published in English in CityLab.com.