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Octopuses High On Ecstasy Go Into Hugging Mode, Just Like People Do

In the pursuit of better living through chemistry, science has frequently dabbled in some rather daring experiments involving illicit substances over the years. Criminologists at the CIA administering LSD to suspected communists way back in the first Cold War immediately springs to mind. But as appalling as that may be, it's nowhere near as arcane as recent research conducted on sea animals.

In this case, neurologists at the University of Oregon have been testing the effects of ecstasy on octopuses. The motive isn't entirely clear on why they would use ecstasy, often called MDMA or "Molly," on the streets. However, the common denominator concerns research on a protein that's present in the brains of both humans and those eight-legged sea creatures. It's the same protein that attaches the calming drug serotonin to the brain and, as it turns out, is highly susceptible to ecstasy.

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When the invertebrates, in this case, a few of the fist-sized California two-spot octopus, were given the drug in small doses via a mixture of seawater that was absorbed by their gills, that's when the fun began. The octopuses, which in relatively more normal circumstances would rarely glance at each other, started embracing.

Startling? Probably, since octopuses are pretty unsociable creatures as it is. Moreover, the brain composition of a typical octopus is not only vastly different from humans, it also hasn't changed much, even though it's existed on the planet some 500 million years longer than its mammalian counterpart. However, it was probably fun to watch, especially when the exchanges between two of them would involve a total of 16 arms.

They also noticed that the creatures appeared to be far more relaxed, confirming that serotonin in some way has had an effect on the behavior of oceanic wildlife for millions of years. Even then, the results have varied wildly, such as the case of lobsters being administered extra doses of serotonin. That's when scientists discovered the crustaceans were hardly in a hugsy state, but would instead become more aggressive and try to exercise dominance over other lobsters.

Currently, there are no plans to conduct similar experiments on other animals. Too bad, considering we could have found out what a real bear hug would be like.

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