September 8, 2017
One of the most intelligent sea creatures to wander in our oceans, the octopus species has more to it than its eight arms. They belong to the Cephalopod family that contains cuttlefish, the prehistoric nautilus, and even the land-based garden snail. These wonderful creatures have been observed to use tools, open bottles, and even decorate their own ocean home. That’s not all, though! Here are some of our favourite facts about octopuses.
One heart isn’t enough for these enchanting creatures. They actually have three each. We’re sure they’re full of underwater love, but each heart plays a crucial role in the creature’s survival. Two of the hearts work together to move blood through the gills, and the other moves blood through the organs. When an octopus begins to swim, the heart that pumps blood through the organs stops beating, and this is why they prefer to crawl than swim.
Fascinatingly, octopus blood is blue, because it contains a copper-based protein called hemocyanin. The copper atoms bind to the oxygen in the blood and transport it throughout the octopus’s body. This allows octopuses to survive even in the most extreme temperatures.
The body of an octopus is extremely soft and agile. Due to having no bone structure, they are able to squeeze in and out of small spaces. In 2016, an octopus in New Zealand actually squeezed out of its tank and made a fish-dash for the drainpipe.
An octopus has a sack-shaped body for a head (also known as a mantle), where all their vital organs are located. Within the underside of its head is the only hard part of its body: a sharp, parrot-shaped beak where all eight of its arms meet. Octopuses use their beaks to eat, and they use their eight arms (which have strong suction cups) to hunt prey such as crabs, mollusks, and crayfish. On each arm there are hundreds of suction cups – that’s nearly 2,000 suction cups altogether on average!
When it comes to the colour and the size of an octopus, these elements are both determined by environmental factors. Cold-water octopuses tend to be much larger than those in warm tropical waters.
How about asking an octopus for help with a tricky puzzle? They might just be able to! With nine ‘brains’ (some 500 million neurons within their eight arms), these wonderful creatures are incredibly intelligent and have excellent proficiency in developing skills of short- and long-term memory.
Octopuses have amazing nervous systems that allow them to learn a variety of things. Researchers have discovered that some octopuses can solve puzzles and differentiate various colours and patterns.
Two-thirds of an octopus’s neurons are actually located in its tentacles, not in its head. Due to this, octopuses’ arms are able to problem-solve a variety of things, such as opening shellfish and even opening a jar!
However, as much as we admire their intelligence, it also upsets us. Due to their advanced nervous systems, octopuses can feel pain just like we do. At Blue Reef Aquarium Newquay, we care strongly about conservation, and all the aquarium’s creatures are kept in safe conditions that best mimic the wild.
Most people associate animal ink with squid, but octopuses (like many other Cephalopods) produce ink too. This is used as a mechanism to confuse and daze predators – an octopus will fire dark ink at predators, giving it time to escape and crawl away. Octopus ink is a dark black colour, whereas squid ink is blue-black, and cuttlefish ink is brown.
Octopus ink contains a compound known as tyrosinase, which, when sprayed in a predator’s eyes, can cause a blinding irritation. The ink also lowers the levels of the predator’s sense of smell, making it harder for the predator to track the octopus and thereby making it easier for the octopus to get away.
The blue-ringed octopus is the only species of octopus that is dangerous to humans. Other species of octopus use their venom only on predators or prey. For example, octopuses can use their venom to paralyse a clam into opening its shell. Octopuses store their venom in their saliva, and they can also use their incredibly powerful jaws to seize prey.
Octopuses are very smart when it comes to escaping their predators. If a predator was to latch onto an arm, the octopus can eject its own arm in order to escape – because a new arm will grow back shortly after (usually within the space of just a few weeks for young creatures, although older octopuses take much longer to heal).
As the colour of octopuses changes depending on their surroundings, they can also use their camouflage abilities to trick prey or predators. They camouflage themselves to look strikingly similar to other poisonous fish to ensure predators stay away.
If you think you have a big family then guess again, because octopuses can lay up to 400,000 eggs at a time! The female octopus guards her offspring obsessively and does not leave their side. The female’s significant concern over her offspring means she will eventually die of starvation because she doesn’t eat for three months (the time it takes for the eggs to hatch).
Once the eggs have hatched, baby octopuses float in the sea with plankton, and then eventually swim back down to the bottom of the sea. Common octopuses live for a few years, but the giant Pacific octopus can live up to five years.
It’s no wonder octopuses are so advanced. They have been crawling our oceans for nearly 300 million years! The oldest known octopus fossil dates back to the Carboniferous period. Researchers believe this old-aged fossil belongs to a species called Pohlsepia, and after close examination it revealed the creature had eight arms, two eyes, and an ink sack; thus it very closely resembled what we now know of as an octopus.
Many people think the plural is ‘octopi’, but it’s actually ‘octopuses’. The word ‘octopus’ derives from the Greek word ‘octopoda’, meaning ‘eight feet’.
You can find out even more about octopuses by visiting us at Blue Reef Aquarium Newquay and meeting our very own giant Pacific octopus. Book your tickets online to make the most of seasonal discounts. Remember to get in touch with us on Facebook or Twitter after your visit, to let us know all about your underwater adventure.