October 30, 2020
The Giant Pacific Octopus needs little introduction. Famed for its size and strength, it’s one of the biggest molluscs on Earth. And yet there’s more to these remarkable animals than sheer scale and brute force, as scientists continue to discover.
To help you get to grips with these enigmatic creatures of the deep, we’ve put together a guide showcasing some of the incredible facts, stats and discoveries which biologists have unearthed about them – we think you’ll be surprised by what you discover…
The Giant Pacific Octopus is among the most fascinating molluscs on Earth, fabled for its immense size, devastatingly powerful appendages, and remarkable, mammal-like intelligence. Here, we’ll shine a light on what makes these majestic creatures so special – sharing some of the facts and discoveries which have brought them to the attention of biologists all around the world.
1. Colossal Creatures of the Deep
Giant Pacific Octopus are big. So big, in fact, that they’re believed to be the main inspiration behind some of the myths, stories and legends associated with giant octopuses – from Lovecraft’s Cthulhu to the terrifying Kraken taken from Norse mythology.
Typically, Giant Pacific Octopus have an average span of around 3-5 metres; to put that into perspective, a Ford Fiesta is 3 metres long. And they’re known to grow much larger than this, with the record specimen measuring nearly 10 metres – which is bigger than a fully-grown killer whale.
2. Incredible Camouflage
It isn’t just sheer size which makes the Giant Pacific Octopus such a formidable hunter. Like other octopus species, these animals have pigments in their skin which allow them to change colour and texture, so they can blend into their surroundings.
In the case of the Giant Pacific Octopus, when we say camouflage, we really mean it. Their skin is such that they can mimic even the most complex and intricately patterned of surfaces, whether that’s rocks, plants or colourful coral. This gives them a huge advantage over their unsuspecting prey – and then their mighty appendages handle the rest.
3. Serious Suction
One of the Giant Pacific Octopus’ chief assets is its suckers, which are all independently mobile and considerably more complex than you might think. And there are lots of them, too, with the average specimen having over 200 suction cups on each of its eight appendages. That’s some serious pulling power.
To put the power of a Giant Pacific Octopus’ suckers into perspective, biologists have discovered that a single, relatively large suction cup can hold up to 15 kilograms in weight – and that’s just one of over a thousand on its body. And they aren’t just strong but also extremely sensitive, capable of detecting chemical changes in the water to aid hunting and avoid predators.
4. Incomparable Intelligence
While the Giant Pacific Octopus’ size, strength and camouflage abilities may be impressive, the thing which so excites biologists about these amazing creatures is their unparalleled intelligence. Indeed, their intellectual exploits have led some scientists to label them the apes of the sea – such is their visual and logical understanding.
In controlled studies, Giant Pacific Octopuses have learned to open jars, solve mazes, recognise faces and mimic other animals. Such skills may sound like neat tricks, but they go some way to explaining why these animals are such adept hunters.
5. Playful Characters
Further to the remarkable displays of intelligence listed above, biologists have reason to believe Giant Pacific Octopuses have a playful nature, and that, during periods of downtime, they actively seek out fun ways to pass the time. This not only aligns with their proven intellect, but also suggests a level of emotional intelligence and feeling too.
While few instances of this playfulness have been observed in the wild, it’s a different story for octopuses in a captive setting. On one occasion, an octopus was observed ‘playing’ with a plastic bottle, whereby it repeatedly squirted water at one floating in its tank. They’ve also been known to play with their handlers, exhibiting curious behaviours similar to that of mammals.
6. Adept Hunters
Amid all their supposed playfulness and intelligence, it’s important to remember that Giant Pacific Octopuses are supreme, powerful predators. Given their huge size and formidable appendages, few animals would choose to tackle one without due cause, and they present a truly imposing threat to the creatures on which they feed.
Not only are Giant Pacific Octopuses masters of camouflage, they’re efficient at catching and devouring their prey too, rarely letting a meal pass them by. This is all thanks to those long, muscle-dense appendages, which draw their catch easily towards their waiting mouths. Here, the unfortunate victim is quickly dispatched by their razor-sharp beaks, which are designed to puncture and tear flesh – a chilling prospect for any animal caught in their snare.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about the size, strength and intelligence of the remarkable Giant Pacific Octopus. To discover more about these wonderful marine animals, join us for a memorable day out at Blue Reef Aquarium Newquay. For information and tickets, visit the homepage.