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The Octopus: The Aliens of The Sea That Deserve More Love

FUN FACTS December 5, 2017 By Vincent

It may sound like a strange topic to discuss, but I can't help feeling that octopuses (that's the correct pluralization, not octopi) deserve more love, or at the very least respect, than they're currently getting.

Vladimir Wrangel/Shutterstock.com

Fundamentally absurd creatures, they are not easily defined by barriers, being a sea creature that can move about on land and its, soft, malleable body can rapidly alter its shape; so much so that the Giant Pacific Octopus, the largest species of Octopus, that has an arm span of up to six meters, can fit through a hole the size of an inch! This makes them masters of disguise as well as deceptive predators. Put this together with the fact that many species can change color as well as shoot a thick, dark blob of mucus and ink to blind predators to their escape means that they can be quite the slippery customers indeed and yet they have a steady grip on things themselves.

Their eight arms have suckers all the way up them which is what makes their arms as opposed to the often incorrectly referred to tentacles which would only have suckers at the tips. 

These suction cups can form an unbroken seal with another surface thus making an anchored octopus incredibly strong and yet their arms do not become tangled or stuck to each other because the sensor recognizes octopus skin and prevents self-attachment. These suction cups are also are equipped with chemoreceptors so the octopus can taste what it touches.

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All of this is fascinating stuff, and yet people still prefer more cuddly animals, ones that are cuter and more reliant on us, but Octopuses have been known to show their sensitive side quite often. Highly intelligent creatures, each one has its own personal sense of space and identity. Some are more confident whilst others may prefer to be left alone and whilst they are inherently isolated animals that prefer their own company rather than to socialize with others of their kind, their interactions with humans are varied and captivating.

Image Source: Sascha Janson/Shutterstock.com

It has been known for octopuses to take divers by the hand and show them around their reefs, like some underwater tour guides, while documentary makers have regularly cited that they have come across many that are prepared to 'perform' for the camera in a way that shows off their hunting skills. All this sounds like that of a highly developed and incredibly intelligent being, and it is thought that your average octopus is at least as capable as your standard household dog, yet we still know so little about them, but why?

Well, for one thing, Octopuses are incredibly mischievous. They do perform incredibly well in laboratory tests, and they have shown that they have both good long-term and short-term memory capabilities but their intelligence may also lead to a sense of boredom. In some tests, Octopuses have seemingly willingly destroyed test equipment with cases of memory tests using pull lever systems being completely dismantled by unwilling participants. In one case, an octopus worked out where the electronics were in the room and used its ability to squirt a spray of water to continually squirt them to short-circuit the wiring in the facility. It persisted in doing so until it was finally released back into the wild.

NOAA Ocean Explorer via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Despite all of these clear signs of clever reasoning and mischievous brains, there is no answer as to how these animals gain this knowledge. A mother Octopus will do little if anything to raise her young bar tending to her eggs whereas a father Octopus won't be around after the breeding process anyway but both will go into a steady decline afterward and often die within a short timespan of mating. They hunt and live alone, and often use tools to their advantage. Some octopuses will cling onto the backs of passing sea turtles to hitch a ride and conserve energy whilst others will collect shells and rocks from the seafloor and disguise themselves in a ball of this ephemera in order to evade prowling sharks.

The veined octopus collects discarded coconut shells, then uses them to build a shelter whilst some octopuses, such as the mimic octopus, can combine their highly flexible bodies with their color-changing ability to mimic other, more dangerous animals, such as lionfish, sea snakes, and eels.

All in all, these mysterious yet captivating beasts hold many more secrets close to their chest and are probably doing so knowingly, yet they have a charm and cheeky nature to them that allows them to recognize other intelligent creatures. Some boast the ability to even work with other species such as octopus in the Great Barrier reef that have been filmed working with grouper fish to catch prey collectively. 

Whilst octopuses long arms can get in amongst the cracks and crevices of the coral to grab at smaller morsels, the grouper has a better ability to see the smaller denizens of the reef and so will often seek them out before pointing its rigid body to an area where they may be hiding. Then the octopus will engulf the reef with its arms, and as its suckers latch onto some, others will escape only fleetingly before being snatched up by the jaws of the grouper.

Smart and with an appreciation for others, the octopus may not be the most sociable in the world, but it clearly has a sense of fun and an appreciation for personal space. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you your new favorite animal!


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