Paul the "psychic" octopus finished the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ with a flawless record as Spain's 1-0 win over the Netherlands in Sunday's final left him with eight perfect predictions.
The eight-legged oracle has become a FIFA World Cup sensation by correctly forecasting all seven Germany games in South Africa and he finished the tournament in style by predicting a Spanish victory in the Soccer City sign-off.
As Paul foretold last week, Spain won their first world title after Andres Iniesta's 116th-minute strike broke the Netherlands' hearts. The tentacled tipster also correctly predicted Germany would beat Uruguay in Saturday's third place play-off.
In the now familiar routine, two boxes were lowered into his tank last week, each containing a mussel and the flags of the two opposing teams. Paul went straight to the correct box both times, wrenched open the lid and gobbled the tasty morsel.
But the art of football predicting has become a dangerous job for the English-born clairvoyant. He fell offside with bitter German fans who threatened to turn him into sushi after he predicted a semi-final defeat for the Mannschaft against Spain.
Paul's home, an aquarium in western Germany, has received death-threat emails saying "we want Paul for the pan," said entertainment supervisor Daniel Fey. No less an authority than Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luiz Rodriguez Zapatero has called for octopus bodyguards. Spanish Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian has called for the creature to be given an "immediate" free transfer to Spain to "ensure his protection."
Stung by Paul's "treachery" at picking Spain over Germany in last Wednesday's semi-final, some sections of the 350,000-strong crowd watching the game on giant screens in Berlin sang anti-octopus songs.
His prediction of a Spanish victory is expected to be the last for Paul, who in octopus terms is a pensioner, at the grand old age of two-and-a-half. Octopuses generally live three years at the latest.
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Intelligence of an Octopus
Octopuses are highly intelligent, likely more so than any other order of invertebrates. The exact extent of their intelligence and learning capability is much debated among biologists, but maze and problem-solving experiments have shown that they do have both short- and long-term memory. Their short lifespans limit the amount they can ultimately learn. There has been much speculation to the effect that almost all octopus behaviors are independently learned rather than instinct-based, although this remains largely unproven. They learn almost no behaviors from their parents, with whom young octopuses have very little contact.
An octopus opening a container with a screw cap
An octopus has a highly complex nervous system, only part of which is localized in its brain. Two-thirds of an octopus's neurons are found in the nerve cords of its arms, which have a remarkable amount of autonomy. Octopus arms show a wide variety of complex reflex actions arising on at least three different levels of the nervous system. Unlike vertebrates, the complex motor skills of octopuses in their higher brain are not organized using an internal somatotopic map of its body. Some octopuses, such as the mimic octopus, will move their arms in ways that emulate the movements of other sea creatures.
In laboratory experiments, octopuses can be readily trained to distinguish between different shapes and patterns. They have been reported to practice observational learning, although the validity of these findings is widely contested on a number of grounds. Octopuses have also been observed in what some have described as play: repeatedly releasing bottles or toys into a circular current in their aquariums and then catching them. Octopuses often break out of their aquariums and sometimes into others in search of food. They have even boarded fishing boats and opened holds to eat crabs.
In some countries, octopuses are on the list of experimental animals on which surgery may not be performed without anesthesia. In the UK, cephalopods such as octopuses are regarded as honorary vertebrates under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and other cruelty to animals legislation, extending to them protections not normally afforded to invertebrates.
The octopus is the only invertebrate which has been conclusively shown to use tools. At least four specimens of the Veined Octopus (Amphioctopus marginatus) have been witnessed retrieving discarded coconut shells, manipulating them, and then reassembling them to use as shelter. This discovery was documented in the journal Current Biology and has also been caught on video.
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