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Animal victims of the blue ringed octopus are often fully conscious and paralyzed as the octopus consumes them
September 3, 2006 11:41 AM   Subscribe

It's about the size of a golf ball. It is shockingly deadly. It has enough poison to kill 26 humans in minutes. If you see it's blue rings, it may already be too late. You will stop breathing. You will go blind. And the only way you will survive it is hours of artificial respiration and heart massage until the poison has worked its way out of your system. It is the blue-ringed octopus.
posted by Astro Zombie (45 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Can you eat it? It'd be like fugu calimari.
posted by absalom at 11:46 AM on September 3, 2006


Isn't he a Jedi?
posted by owhydididoit at 11:52 AM on September 3, 2006


So all these pictures are of agitated octopuses? I assume they were all taken from a position of safety?
posted by vacapinta at 11:55 AM on September 3, 2006


Beautiful Horror.
posted by exlotuseater at 11:59 AM on September 3, 2006


Okay, they have a lot of creepy crawlies in Oz. I'm thinking that it would just be my Irish luck to get bitten by a blue-ringed octo and then after I'm dead, get eaten by Great White Sharks, then the Red Kangaroos can kick me around and play a little Autralian Rules Football with my head. Ugh. Blue, blanc et rouge take on a whole new meaning.
posted by orchidthief at 11:59 AM on September 3, 2006


This species lacks an ink sac and has therefore become a common addition to the marine aquarium.

Also popular are box jellies, which you only have to feed once a week.
posted by eddydamascene at 12:00 PM on September 3, 2006


One more reason to fear sea creatures!
posted by Hildegarde at 12:05 PM on September 3, 2006


How is it that dangerous creatures evolve colorful patterns? It must have happened simultaneously with other creatures havin fear of colorful patterns encoded in their genes.
posted by mert at 12:07 PM on September 3, 2006


Mmmmm....some blue-ring sashimi to start, with some escargot to follow, perhaps?

Note: the accuracy in this article is debatable: conotoxins are only slightly more toxic than tetorodotoxin. Still, don't mess with 'dem snails!
posted by lalochezia at 12:14 PM on September 3, 2006


While it was never proven, the most likely scenario was that he found a blue-ringed octopus in a tide pool, picked it up and put it on his shoulder. After it bit him, he was probably dead in minutes.

Note to self: don't put strange sealife on body.
posted by luftmensch at 12:22 PM on September 3, 2006


Also known as the assassin's weapon of choice in Michael Crichton's State of Fear :)
posted by antifuse at 12:23 PM on September 3, 2006


Why is it that I find small, poisonous animals with pretty, bright colours cute?
posted by QIbHom at 12:27 PM on September 3, 2006


The last thing the victim sees are the blue rings...

Great, am I going to find one in my orange juice exactly seven days from now?
posted by kid ichorous at 12:33 PM on September 3, 2006


Wow! Great post, very interesting.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 12:43 PM on September 3, 2006


Very cool. A couple stunning videos on youtube of the buggers also. Pretty neat to see that when they swim, they lose the rings, and when they stop they reappear.
posted by yeti at 12:46 PM on September 3, 2006


Also, when browsing AskMe last week regarding octopi as pets, this comment ["If you do decide to try, don't get the beautiful blue/yellow ring dwarf ones. You knew that, right? Their venom can and will kill you."] left me curious. Now I know to what he was refering.
posted by yeti at 12:52 PM on September 3, 2006


Great post.

I wonder how long before DHS reveals that terrorists have been planning to us this to carry out attacks on US citizens?
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 1:09 PM on September 3, 2006


OOAP?
posted by turducken at 1:16 PM on September 3, 2006


I've had it with these octopuses!
posted by Flashman at 1:34 PM on September 3, 2006


Poison. Poison. Poison. Tasty octopus!
posted by Flashman at 1:37 PM on September 3, 2006


Oh thank you, Dear Intelligent Designer, for making an octopus with deadly neurotoxin venom. Surely this is your greatest work.

Great post. I never knew these existed.
posted by ninjew at 1:38 PM on September 3, 2006


btw, these still don't frighten me as much as the Irukandji. Just as deadly, and nearly invisible.
posted by ninjew at 1:43 PM on September 3, 2006


Octopodes on a locomotive!

Are there regulations against keeping extremely toxic creatures as pets? Are people on a list of potential assasins for owning pets that produce potent toxins?
posted by porpoise at 1:55 PM on September 3, 2006


It's reassuring that the "antidote" of artificial respiration and heart massaging is spoken of in a way where one thinks it could be successful. But when you think about how long you'd have for someone to administer all that, you realize there won't be many survivor stories to read! I was kinda hoping you'd found one, Astro Zombie!
posted by blackvectrex at 2:01 PM on September 3, 2006


How is it that dangerous creatures evolve colorful patterns? It must have happened simultaneously with other creatures havin fear of colorful patterns encoded in their genes.

In Wolfram's (somewhat rambly) A New Kind of Science, he presents the argument that color patterns in species are for the most part incidental—they are happy accidents in co-dependent genetic variations, and the supposition that bright colors or patterns whatnot are valuable selective traits is crap.

In short, his argument goes, if you develop a valuable selective trait (better vision, faster reflexes, deeper air reserves, etc), that will be associated with some genetic signature, which may well also carry some superficial characteristics—such as little blue rings, or a trademark ideographic marking, or whatever.

The idea that every single feature of a creature has a specific selectively-advantageous purpose is pretty silly, after all. And so, one could argue, the beautiful markings we see on otherwise successful creatures may having nothing of signifigance to contribute to those creatures' success.
posted by cortex at 2:02 PM on September 3, 2006


Blue-rings, irukandjis, bull ants, brown snakes...that's some charming fauna you've got Down Under...
posted by Skeptic at 2:30 PM on September 3, 2006


Their poison, tetrodotoxin, was used by Haitian voodoo practitioners to create zombies.
posted by gsteff at 2:48 PM on September 3, 2006


People keep these as pets?
posted by caddis at 3:00 PM on September 3, 2006


How is it that dangerous creatures evolve colorful patterns?

Then again, a creature that has gone to the trouble of developing some kind of defence (for example, being poisonous) would have wasted their effort if potential predators could not identify them as possessing that defence. So dangerous creatures have a reason for being visually striking.
posted by alasdair at 3:15 PM on September 3, 2006


Most cool to me: from clicking through one of the links, this quote:

"Their salivary glands harbor dense colonies of TTX-producing bacteria. The blue-rings have evolved a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria, providing them ideal living conditions while using the toxin they produce to subdue prey and as part of their highly advertised defense."

The venom isn't actually the octopus', but that of a bacterium that symbiotically lives in the blue-ring's salivary glands. Gnarly.
posted by darkstar at 3:39 PM on September 3, 2006


Blue-Ringed Octopi on a Plane.

Don't laugh, people would go see it.
posted by Ritchie at 3:45 PM on September 3, 2006


* pastes own comment from previous thread on Australia's fauna of death *

At Cronulla beach, where I spent a lot of my childhood & adolescence, there are rockpools where parents will take their toddlers to splash around until they are old enough to handle the surf.

The rockpools have always had warning signs, reading "danger: blue ringed octopuses found in this area". This has never deterred people from letting their kids play here.


I really should pop over & take a photo of 2YOs splashing around in the rockpools under the warning signs. It's quite surreal.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:25 PM on September 3, 2006


How is it that dangerous creatures evolve colorful patterns?


There's plenty that don't, too. Rattlesnakes, stonefish, brown recluse spiders, and many more, are drab or even could be considered 'camoflaged' with their surroundings. My theory is that Mother Nature is a sadistic bitch who likes to poison us; if she can't make us fall prey to the trap of pretty colors, then she'll get us by stealth.
posted by Rubber Soul at 4:50 PM on September 3, 2006


I saw one of these things in a pet store once. It was inside a locked tank, inside a sealed tank. There were warnings everwhere. It was like a tiny, blue, 8-limbed Houdini. Only it wanted to destroy you.
posted by .kobayashi. at 5:21 PM on September 3, 2006


Oh yeah, an octopus will get out of a tank. Sometimes they'll head out to other tanks to get a midnight snack. Sometimes they won't find there way back and will dry up on the floor. Sometimes, though, they go missing for weeks, only to show up completely unexpectedly back in the tank.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:31 PM on September 3, 2006


How is it that dangerous creatures evolve colorful patterns? It must have happened simultaneously with other creatures havin fear of colorful patterns encoded in their genes.
posted by mert at 3:07 PM EST on September 3 [+] [!]


I think the theory is that the pattern is so distinctive that it warns the predators to stay away. Other creatures can get in on the game. The Viceroy butterfly mimics the Monarch. Why? The Monarch is poisonous and avoided by predators. They avoid the non-poisonous Viceroy as well.
posted by caddis at 6:03 PM on September 3, 2006


Yeah, yeah. Scary octopus. If you see one, swim a mile.

Not as terrifying as the Candiru, of course. Those are scary little buggers :)
posted by kaemaril at 6:58 PM on September 3, 2006


Another threat that people pose to the octopus is that because of its strong venom, members of Australia’s world-leading venom industry harvest it.

world leading venom industry? wft?
posted by YoBananaBoy at 7:25 PM on September 3, 2006


world leading venom industry? wft?

venom industry
posted by porpoise at 7:48 PM on September 3, 2006


The threat of the Candiru lodging in your penis while skinny dipping is highly over rated, yet still creepy.
posted by caddis at 7:49 PM on September 3, 2006


This is why researchers in my laboratory studying blue-ringed octopus are required to work in pairs and must be trained in CPR.

Damn.

Great post, Astro Zombie!
posted by jason's_planet at 7:56 PM on September 3, 2006


Another great resource for the cephalopod enthusiast is TONMO.com: The Octopus News Magazine Online.

It's a great resource for answering questions like, "[W]ould a stomatopod that occurs sympatrically with a blue-ring attack it."
posted by cephalopodcast at 11:44 AM on September 4, 2006


Ah yes, and also this...
Spare a thought for the male greater blue-ringed octopus which, despite eyes as good or better than humans, can't see who he's getting it off with.
The confused octopus
posted by cephalopodcast at 11:48 AM on September 4, 2006


From that link:

"Most male-male copulations ended rapidly in amicable separation," says a report on the research published in Nature Australia this week.

Heh.
posted by darkstar at 2:54 PM on September 4, 2006


Sounds a lot like Happy Fun Ball.
posted by sdswift at 2:32 PM on September 5, 2006


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