Mark Rober Builds Underwater Maze to Test the Inventive Intelligence of an Octopus

Mark Rober, the entertaining science vlogger who previously built obstacle courses for the squirrels and other critters in his backyard, created a nine-part underwater maze for his pet octopus Sashimi. The maze included incrementally increasing the difficulty levels in accordance with her high intellect and inventive intelligence, both of which Rober underestimated.

This is my pet octopus named Sashimi. And this is a vault filled with all her favorite food. The only problem is, in order to get to this vault, she’ll have to rely on her incredible intelligence and dexterity to make it all the way through this nine part underwater obstacle course. And just like when I made my backyard obstacle course for squirrels, out of the gate, I will admit in hindsight, I completely underestimated the capabilities of this remarkable creature.

As with most animals, the main motivation was food and octopuses will do anything to get to their food. Rober studied Sashimi for a month to understand her motivations and then reverse engineered the maze.

And after a month or two of observation once we had really come to understand each other we had all the data we needed to enter phase two. So after a lot of brainstorming, CAD, 3D printing, and laser cutting. We eventually landed here starting at the conclusion of the nine part obstacle course with the Golden Vault. If she can figure out how to unscrew the vault door well then she’s earned the 3 pounds of her favorite food: shrimp contained therein.

Octopus v Maze

Rober marveled over the biology of octopuses, noting the cephalopods are in their own category.

…my absolute favorite fact about the octopus is that they are truly the closest thing we have to intelligent alien life on this planet. …in octopi, only one third of their neurons are in the brain and the rest are in their arms, which means they not only smell and taste, but they can even think and act independently with their arms. …Having eight independent mini brains, along with a larger central brain is as incomprehensible as alien intelligence to us.

Once Sashimi conquered the maze and enjoyed a nice meal, Rober took her to the ocean and released her.

After a month or so of training on all the obstacles, she had finally done it, and with the tide on her side, she went straight for the door, ripped it off the foundation, and then immediately basked in the sweet, delicious taste of a hard earned victory in the largest stockpile of shrimp she’d ever seen. And after letting her gorge for a bit, it was time for me to uphold my end of the deal and give her the ‘Finding Nemo’ happy ending she deserved by driving her 8 hours down the coast back to the exact beach where she was raised.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails. Lori can be found posting on Threads and sharing photos on Instagram.