Scientists gave a camera to an octopus, and she only needed 3 tries to learn to use it.

How does an octopus say "cheese"?

Presumably it sounds like a muffled underwater version of "Silly humans, bow down to your cephalopod overlords," but I can't say that we'll ever know for sure.

What we do know for sure is that an octopus named Rambo has mastered the art of the f-stop and is now selling her own original photographs to visitors at the New Zealand aquarium she calls home.


"Lights! Camera! Tentacle!" GIF via Sony New Zealand/YouTube.

Like many talented artists, this eight-armed savant is, erm, also a bit of a diva.

"On day two, she pulled the camera off, ripped it up, smashed it to bits and spat it out," behaviorist Mark Vette recalled. "We realized how powerful she was."

They went through a dozen iterations of the camera case before they settled on one that was strong enough to withstand her tentacled fury. (That's also how she got her name.)

"What is this cheap plastic crap? They don't make cameras like they used to." GIF via One News/TV New Zealand.

Fortunately, Rambo's creative endeavor is sponsored by Sony, who happily provided her with a new TX30 camera in the aftermath of her artistic outburst. You can even check out a whole gallery of her work on their Facebook page, allowing you'll have to forgive the occasional stray tentacle sneaking into the frame.

(In other words: Yes, this was originally part of a cross-promotional marketing opportunity, but that doesn't make it any less cool.)

"Make love to the camera, baby, yes, that's right. You're a natural!" GIF from Sony New Zealand/YouTube.

Rambo's not the only pictorially inclined marine mollusk either.

In March 2015, an octopus at Middlebury College turned the lens on his scientific observers. A digital media producer at the school visited a neuroscience laboratory where students were studying the clever creature. Mostly, they wanted to know if an octopus could learn by observing the actions of other octopuses.

But when they placed a GoPro in his tank, the octopus decided to turn things around and observe his own observers.

"No photos 'til I've had my coffee." GIF via Benjamin Savard/The Washington Post.

"I was just trying to brainstorm different ideas of how to show off the kind of unique research that's going on here and in ways that would be engaging," one of the students told The Washington Post. "I think the octopus's timing was great. I was just in the right place at the right time."

This all begs the question: How do octopuses even see?!

The obvious answer is, of course, with their eyes. Which is true. Ish. But like most things involving octopuses, the answer is much weirder and much more fascinating than that.

Unlike us lowly humans with our feeble brains that serve as central processing stations for our entire fragile bodies, octopus tentacles are capable of functioning as their own independent nervous systems. That's right: Each of those squirmy limbs with the suckers on the bottom basically have a mind of their own.

"Don't hate me 'cause I'm beautiful." GIF via Sony New Zealand/YouTube.

And just beneath the surface of the skin, those writhing minds are covered in cells called chromatophores, each of which is kind of like its own little painter's palette. These chromatophores can change color, which is how the octopus camouflages itself to lash out at unsuspecting passersby.

But they also contain opsins, the same light-sensitive proteins that are found in eye retinas. Which basically means that octopus skin can sense light and color without any help from the creature's brain.

That's right, they "see" with their freakin' tentacles!

"Oh no! The humans are catching on to us! Must escape!" GIF via Sony New Zealand/YouTube.

Honestly it's not entirely clear just how clever this specific photo-taking endeavor really is. But still!

Rambo was trained, like animals often are, using a food reward system. And her subjects all stand in a designated photobooth, within the range of the stationary camera. Obviously she's helped along by that handy autofocus feature, too — although that shouldn't necessarily be a slight against her intelligence, considering that most humans rely on that as well.

"What is 'art,' anyway? What does it truly mean to see, or to express oneself? Is art driven by intention, or the manifestation of the subconscious?" — a philosophtopus, probably. GIF via One News/TV New Zealand.

But that shouldn't detract from the fact that octopuses are weird, complicated, fascinating creatures, and we should consider ourselves lucky to share this wonderful planet alongside them.

Check out this behind-the-scenes video of Rambo the Octographer at work:

Most Shared
Courtesy of First Book

We take the ability to curl up with a good story for granted. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to books. For the 32 million American children growing up in low-income families, books are rare. In one low-income neighborhood in Washington, D.C., there is approximately one book for every 800 children. But children need books in their lives in order to do well in school and in life. Half of students from low-income backgrounds start first grade up to two years behind other students. If a child is a poor reader at the end of first grade, there's a 90% chance they're going to be a poor reader at the end of fourth grade.

In order to help close the literacy gap, First Book launched Give a Million, a Giving Tuesday campaign to put one million new, high-quality books in the hands of children. Since 1992, the nonprofit has distributed over 185 million books and educational resources, a value of more than $1.5 billion. Many educators lack the basic educational necessities in their classrooms, and First Book helps provide these basic needs items.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
True
first-book

I was 10 when my uncle Doug took his own life. I remember my mom getting the phone call and watching her slump down the kitchen wall, hand over her mouth. I remember her having to tell my dad to come home from work so she could tell him that his beloved baby brother had hung himself.

Doug had lived with us for a while. He was kind, gentle, and funny. He was only 24 when he died.

My uncle was so young—too young—but not as young as some who end their lives. Youth suicide in the U.S. is on the rise, and the numbers—and ages—are staggering.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Pavel Verbovski

Forrest doesn't mind admitting he needed a second chance. The 49-year-old had, at one point, been a member of the Army; he'd been married and had a support network. But he'd also run into a multitude of health and legal problems. He'd been incarcerated. And once he was released, he didn't know where he would go or what he would do. He'd never felt so alone.

But then, some hope. While working with Seattle's VA to obtain a place to live and a job, Forrest heard about Mercy Magnuson Place, a new development from Mercy Housing Northwest that would offer affordable homes to individuals and families who, like Forrest, needed help in the city's grueling rental market.

Forrest remembers not wanting to even go see the building because he didn't want to get his hopes up, but a counselor persuaded him. And when he learned that the development was a repurposed former military barracks — now a historic landmark — he knew he'd feel right at home.

Today, Forrest couldn't be happier. "I've got a 10-foot-high ceiling," he says. "I've got 7-foot windows. I look out onto a garden." His studio apartment, he says, has more space than he knows what to do with. For someone who's spent chunks of his life not having a place to call his own, the three closets that Forrest's apartment boasts are a grand luxury.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
True
Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Having a baby is like entering a fight club. The first rule of having a kid is don't talk about having a kid. New moms end up with weird marks on their bodies, but they don't talk about how they got there or why. They just smile as they tell other women motherhood is such a joy.

There are so many other things we don't talk about when it comes to pregnancy. Hearing about the veritable war zone your body turns into is enough to snap anyone out of the highest of baby fevers, which is why so many women probably keep the truth to themselves. But it's important to talk about the changes because it normalizes them. Here are some of the ways your body changes that your health textbook isn't going to cover.

Keep Reading Show less
popular