8
$\begingroup$

I'm imagining a scenario where there is a conflict between humans and intelligent octopuses. The humans' main mode of transport is the bicycle.

The octopuses decide to stage a night raid whereby they will steal the humans' bicycles and dispose of them at the bottom of the sea. The problem is that they must transport the bikes from land to the coast. Dragging these would make a noise so the octopus plan to ride the bikes.

Question

Assuming that the intelligent octopuses are of a size to reach the pedals and the handlebars, could an octopus actually ride a bicycle - even in theory? What aspects of biology could prevent it.

Notes

Assume that the octopuses can survive out of water for the time required. (real-life octopuses do sometimes travel short distances on land)

Assume that the octopuses have worked out a way to mount the bikes but they can't support their full body weight clear of the ground on their tentacles for any length of time - hence needing to use the saddle.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You mean civilised Octopuses right? Cephalopods are scary intelligent. $\endgroup$ – Ash May 1 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Ash - You could put it that way. They can certainly communicate as well as we can, form complex plans, and work as a team. I don't think real ones can do all of that. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK May 1 at 18:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ My gut says this should be possible, but the fact that I've never seen a clip of an octopus riding a bike makes me second-guess myself, because that is obviously something that should exist in this day and age. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang May 1 at 18:07
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Can those octopuses stand on their tentacles, when out of the water? $\endgroup$ – Alexander May 1 at 18:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander - They can't support their entire weight clear of the ground for any great length of time. That's why they need to use the saddle once in motion. $\endgroup$ – chasly from UK May 1 at 18:23
8
$\begingroup$

Octopuses are fairly strong for their size; so, being physically able to ride a bike should not be an obstacle. Practically speaking, probably not so much.

Even humans that have never ridden a bike before generally can not do it without falling over repeatedly and making a bunch of noise. So assuming bike riding is not a thing octopuses already teach their young, then a random night raid like this would fail hilariously.

To further complicate the matter, octopuses have decentralized motor control over their tentacles. This means that their brain can give a limb a general idea of what that limb should do, but then the tentacle decides how to do it. This would probably make activities that require each part of the octopus's body to work in tandem for things like riding a bike pretty difficult compared to an animal with a centralized control system.

$\endgroup$
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ +1 for the need to learn to ride a bike. $\endgroup$ – user64555 May 1 at 20:15
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ I'm now imagining that our octopus army has somehow managed to acquire a single bicycle, and are all taking turns learning how to ride it in preparation for the big raid. $\endgroup$ – Admiral Jota May 1 at 20:43
4
$\begingroup$

I don't think there's anything to prevent an octopus from riding a bicycle with the possible exception of force exertion, I'm not sure that an octopus can get enough down force from it's tentacles to move the peddles. In short they may not be strong enough but otherwise they're biomechanically adaptable enough for the task.

As a note any octopus big enough and strong enough to ride a bicycle can probably carry it completely off the ground more easily than they can ride it.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ With the right gearing, the force required to move the pedals can be quite small. They might not do well on a single-speed bike, but any bike that's built to climb hills may work. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang May 1 at 19:36
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ Pedals need not be pushed down. You can also pull them up on the upturn. $\endgroup$ – user64555 May 1 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ @NuclearWang Any bike will possibly work, I'm just not sure how strong an octopus is and how much force it needs. $\endgroup$ – Ash May 5 at 17:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.