Animal Appreciation I: Giant Pacific Octopus

The Giant Pacific Octopus is the largest octopus, reaching around nine meters across.  Here’s a few reasons why the Giant Pacific Octopus (and all octopuses in general) are super cool:

1. They are great mothers.  While I usually have issues with anthropomorphizing creatures, these animals are extremely dedicated to their young.  An octopus can have hundreds of offspring, and a female will lay the eggs and wait with the eggs until they hatch to ensure that they stay safe from predators.  Of course, this means that the octopus cannot go and eat for herself, so she usually dies after these months of fasting.  However, they ensure that at least some of their offspring survive.

2. They are incredibly intelligent.  We usually refer to intelligence solely to mammals (humans, other primates, dolphins, etc.) but octopuses are very smart.  They have been given mazes and puzzles to solve and they consistently find innovative solutions to these problems.

3. They have no bones.  Like most cephalopods, they have no bones (in fact, the only hard part of their body is the beak in the middle of their tentacles that they use to eat).  Therefore, any hole that the beak can fit through, they can fit through too – they have been shown to fit through holes no bigger than a quarter (and these are big animals).

4. They are fierce predators.  Apparently at an aquarium, some workers decided to move the octopus into a tank with sharks, hoping that the sharks wouldn’t hurt the octopus because the octopus could hide well.  Of course, mysteriously the sharks started disappearing from the tank.  Here’s the crazy video of an octopus eating a shark:

5. Camouflage.  I saved the best for last; this is incredible.  Octopuses have amazing abilities to camouflage and blend into their surroundings; they change both the color and the texture of their skin.  How does this work?  These creatures have cells called chromatophores that change size by muscle contraction.  When these cells change size, they can change the way light interacts with the skin, changing the color of the skin at the animal’s control.  Here’s an absolutely amazing video of an octopus camouflaging:

That video is taken from an equally amazing TED lecture about ocean astonishments: http://www.ted.com/talks/david_gallo_shows_underwater_astonishments.

Side Note: Octopi is actually not the correct plural form of octopus.  The word octopus is derived from the Greek derivative, not the Latin derivative, and therefore the correct plural is actually octopodes.  However, since the word is in English, octopuses is correct too.

Works Cited

http://animals.howstuffworks.com/marine-life/octopus-camouflage2.htm

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-do-squid-and-octopuse/

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/giant-pacific-octopus/

http://www.seattleaquarium.org/octopus

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/octopus-and-kin/giant-pacific-octopus

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