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Disturbing but awesome facts about the Giant Pacific Octopus
July 6, 2009 6:57 PM   Subscribe

By popular demand, your new resident marine biology nerd has compiled some cool information about the Giant Pacific Octopus.The Giant Pacific Octopus (Octopus dofleini) is one of the strangest animals in the sea- and one of the smartest. Though it is commonly believed that vertebrates are always "smarter" than invertebrates, these guys defy that convention. As this video shows, they are able to easily open jars and retrieve food from inside. They are also, as the "Giant" implies, enormous- the biggest one on record was 30 feet across (according to National Geographic)

If the size and intelligence of this animal doesn't alarm you, perhaps this will... they have been known to kill sharks by using their powerful arms to break the shark's spine, and have even been known to leave their own tank to eat something in a nearby tank. They are also so flexible that, despite their immense size, they can fit through any opening slightly larger than their hard beak. Fortunately, we have a way to fight back against this molluscan menace- they are very sensitive to polluted water, and there's no shortage of that in today's world. And yes, just like snails and oysters, octopuses are molluscs. And yes, the plural of octopus is octopuses, not octopi.
posted by WhySharksMatter (140 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks, WhySharksMatter!

Just to add to the links: nickyskye's earlier, more general cephalopod appreciation post.
posted by small_ruminant at 7:02 PM on July 6, 2009


Octopi are amazing creatures. I can't eat them in restaurants anymore because of the guilt.

Cows, though, are no problem.
posted by elder18 at 7:06 PM on July 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is awesome.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:08 PM on July 6, 2009


So fucking cool.

They also have CHROMATOPHORES! Their skin is like a big dot-matrix display they have direct control over. HOW COOL IS THAT?

And they have EYES 2.0. Through their own parallel evolution it seems they've come up with a better eye than us vertebrates got. If I recall right from highschool cephalopods can perceive polarization and have no blind spot due to the nerve attaching behind instead of in front. I WANT BETTER EYES.

Our brain beats their hecka-complicated ganglia though.
posted by floam at 7:09 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I can't eat them in restaurants anymore because of the guilt.

Also, octopus sushi tastes like dirty rubber bands, so that helps.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:09 PM on July 6, 2009 [9 favorites]


Fuck, make that octopuses.
posted by elder18 at 7:10 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of something I recently read. To do tonight.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:12 PM on July 6, 2009


I work with wildlife researchers. One researcher told a story of a colleague who was studying crabs. Every few evenings or so a crab would go missing from the tank. The researcher got sick of losing his study subjects so camped out in the same room as the tank for an evening to see what was happening. The culprit? A sneaky octopus from the lab next door.

True story? I hope so.
posted by fieldtrip at 7:13 PM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


The narration for the "kill sharks" link is unbelievably annoying, but the footage is astonishing. I feel a little bad for the poor shark. But the octopus is so cool!
posted by rtha at 7:15 PM on July 6, 2009


Also: nice post, WhySharksMatter! (Real glad you didn't get scared off by that MeTa hazing)
posted by fieldtrip at 7:15 PM on July 6, 2009


Personally, I prefer octopodes as the plural of octopus, as it derives from Greek rather than latin.

If octopodes had a longer lifespan and lived past reproduction, they could potentially be the dominant species on Earth instead of us hairless apes.
posted by porpoise at 7:17 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The story of that octopus leaving its tank to eat fish in another tank sounds fishy to me. Why would it return to its own tank after feasting? It would imply that it was aware that it shouldn't be doing what it was doing and returned to its own tank to avoid detection.
On preview: fieldtrip - hmm.
posted by tellurian at 7:18 PM on July 6, 2009


hal_c_on: This reminds me of something I recently read. To do tonight.

Fuck, me too!
posted by gman at 7:18 PM on July 6, 2009


Knowing that octopodes (YEAH I WENT THERE) are cunning, resourceful, amphibious predators that can grow to immense sizes makes it all the more urgent that we eat as many as possible, before that story about the researcher's tank being depleted overnight develops a variation involving a seaside creche.
posted by No-sword at 7:19 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I remember a couple of years ago watching a Discovery Channel pseudo-documentary on the possible future of evolution. The conclusion being, hundreds of millions of years from now, octopus-descendants will be swinging from tree to tree, just about ready to paint some cave art and fashion some stone tools.

I have seen nothing since watching that to make me think things will end up otherwise.
posted by Nomiconic at 7:21 PM on July 6, 2009


I always thought I wanted a pet octopus, when I realized that I really just want an octopus to be my friend.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:22 PM on July 6, 2009 [25 favorites]


... I for one welcome my sushi flavored overlords. I personally consider it my duty as a sentient to eat other possibly sentient species which are too alien to comprehend. That and they are too tasty not to eat.

And nothing is as unnerving as looking into the eyes of a giant octopus and KNOWING it is looking back at you, wondering if you taste good or it can play with you till you do.
posted by strixus at 7:26 PM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I found a great video of a cuttlefish attacking an octopus too distracted by playing with a spanner to defend itself.
posted by idiopath at 7:32 PM on July 6, 2009 [42 favorites]


30 feet across? Can open jars?!

*hides under bed*
posted by deborah at 7:34 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm so glad we have our new resident marine biologist.

Fun fact: Marine biologist is the other career (the first being architect) that I always hear in the George Costanza voice.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:34 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


we have a way to fight back against this delicious molluscan menace

there you go!
posted by _dario at 7:35 PM on July 6, 2009


They also have CHROMATOPHORES! Their skin is like a big dot-matrix display they have direct control over. HOW COOL IS THAT?

I skipped the big-screen TV and installed a gigantic cuttlefish instead.
posted by GuyZero at 7:36 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wanted idiopath's link to have a happy ending. Now I am bummed (and hungry).
posted by cjorgensen at 7:41 PM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


And yes, the plural of octopus is octopuses, not octopi.

As soon as I saw this post on the front page I was desperately excited to get that question answered. Thank you!

Fish resonate for me, particularly octopuses. When my daughter was a patient at St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital, they had two HUGE wonderful, well-maintained saltwater tanks - one in the main waiting area by the outpatient chemo center, and another in the waiting room at the radiology/imaging/mri/ct scan suite. There were octopuses in one of the tanks, and while holding my baby I would spend hours waiting for chemo and searching for them, finding them for the older kids who knew they were there, checking out their hiding spots, etc.

My daughter loved the angelfish best though - but probably because they match the bright tats my husband has. She loved to stare at Daddy's arms....

So thanks, Mr. Resident Marine Biologist Dude - I will really enjoy digging into this, and wishing my Viv was here to see it too (but in a happy way).
posted by bunnycup at 7:42 PM on July 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Fuck, make that octopuses.

This is a sentence I will repeat many times in my life, in many different contexts.
posted by ook at 7:48 PM on July 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


The only question I have after viewing those excellent links is... why hasn't there been an octopus horror movie yet?

Because I'm currently typing this from under my desk, and infinitely glad I live in Tucson.
posted by MrVisible at 7:50 PM on July 6, 2009


I love that we shamed a really nice guy into posting links for us! This is what America is all about.
posted by America at 7:55 PM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Why are you all hiding under desks and beds? They can open jars and fit through keyholes. You think an unsealed barrier will stop them? Fools!
posted by No-sword at 7:56 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Finally
posted by homunculus at 7:56 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


That and they are too tasty not to eat.

Beyond the fact that I cannot stand the texture of octopus, I draw the line at eating something that tries to eat me back.
posted by elfgirl at 7:59 PM on July 6, 2009


This food hates you and what you did to it!
posted by elfgirl at 8:02 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Judging from the video, octopuses have roughly the intelligence of a human child - capable of unscrewing a jar lid to get at the cookies, but incapable of screwing the lid back on.
posted by Ritchie at 8:04 PM on July 6, 2009


You are my new favorite FPPer. No joke.
posted by Mikey-San at 8:04 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not to be confused with Octopus paxarbolis, the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Ahem.
posted by scalefree at 8:04 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is what America is all about.
posted by America

ORLY?
Do tell.

(Nice post, WhyOctopodesMatter.)
posted by Floydd at 8:07 PM on July 6, 2009


floam: "Our brain beats their hecka-complicated ganglia though."

To british researchers, not by much. Octopus vulgaris gets status as an honorary chordate.
posted by The White Hat at 8:09 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like octopus, but I want it dead dead dead first.

This one, though, should be in Ocean's 14. She'd be the first eight.
posted by lysdexic at 8:10 PM on July 6, 2009


Now we can be friends.
posted by Evangeline at 8:18 PM on July 6, 2009


"I love that we shamed a really nice guy into posting links for us! "

You didn't shame me into anything, I'm happy to write about what people want to read about. It's my job to educate the public about the oceans, and I really, really love my job. Everyone, please let me know if there's anything you want to know about the oceans... particularly about my specialty, sharks.
posted by WhySharksMatter at 8:18 PM on July 6, 2009


Jesus lapdancing Christ, idiopath, that video will haunt my nightmares for years to come. CUNNING NINJA CUTTLEFISH DNW.
posted by elizardbits at 8:19 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Floyd: A good portion of the work that gets done around here is fueled by shame and past regret. It's the extra oomph that keeps me a leader on the world stage!
posted by America at 8:20 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


You didn't shame me into anything, I'm happy to write about what people want to read about.

I thought of same joke came because if I had that kind of thread done about me I could probably be shamed into something like this :).
posted by America at 8:27 PM on July 6, 2009


It looks like the creatures can get creative using their camouflage, too. I can't find the radio interview where I heard the story, but a researcher had an octopus and a pet beagle who got along pretty well. The beagle would nose up against the tank; the octopus would belly up against the his side of the glass...and do a beagle impression.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 8:27 PM on July 6, 2009


WhySharksMatter: "39"I love that we shamed a really nice guy into posting links for us! "

You didn't shame me into anything, I'm happy to write about what people want to read about. It's my job to educate the public about the oceans, and I really, really love my job. Everyone, please let me know if there's anything you want to know about the oceans... particularly about my specialty, sharks.
"

Lies!!! Accept your fate and post away citizen, for it is your duty as repayment to Metafilter potential tom foolery finders.

Nice post BTW. :)
posted by Gravitus at 8:38 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


let me know if there's anything you want to know about the oceans... particularly about my specialty, sharks

OK, I'll bite because I've always wondered about this. Which specific area of the world has the highest density of great white sharks? I'm not sure if any biological surveys have been done on them, but most of what I've read does some general handwaving about the Mediterranean, South Africa, and Australia but doesn't really go into any further detail.
posted by crapmatic at 8:38 PM on July 6, 2009


Hmm. I'm not really certain that the octopus is 'breaking the sharks' back there. I think that it's more of a case of strangulation. Sharks need to move forward, constantly, to breath and I'm pretty sure that I've read somewhere that the octopus is just holding the shark in place long enough for it to run out of breath, black out, and eventually be eaten.

A bit of googling didn't find me any authoritative answers one way or another. And I'm too lazy to try hard to find out.
posted by bswinburn at 8:41 PM on July 6, 2009


Personally, I prefer octopodes O, Great and Benevolent Overlords as the plural of octopus, as it derives from Greek rather than latin will be good practice for the future, when they take over.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:41 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


fieldtrip - I have heard this story too, but not as "Oh aren't they clever creatures story" but as "Damn those frickin' things, nothing is safe from them." If I recall correctly, duct tape will stop them from getting into things - but of course duct tape has other problems.

And despite all the love I'm going to drag the whole thing down and point out that it's been proven that we need them.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:49 PM on July 6, 2009


I once read that octopuses are loyal and pet-like, and smarter than dogs. I'm not quite sure how they tested that theory, but I'm thinking an octopus might beat a dog in a game of catch.
posted by necessitas at 8:49 PM on July 6, 2009


But can a 30 ft Octopus kill a 30ft shark? Or a 20ft? Or 10ft? This sort of thing annoys me, yeah, I can see how a giant 4ft rabbit can defeat a tiny baby 5" shark, but that doesn't mean that rabbits are tougher than sharks. Also: I think multiple octopuses should be either 'octopii' or 'octopee'. Your choice, science.
posted by rainy at 8:50 PM on July 6, 2009


Octopuses are one of those animals that makes me wonder if someday we'll look back on the way we treat certain other species with the same disbelief and shame that we have when we look back on the way different groups of humans have treated each other.
posted by edheil at 8:56 PM on July 6, 2009


I wish there was a video of the octopus climbing out of the tank and walking across to the other tank for a snack. Funny that he'd return to his own tank and not just stay in the tank full of snacks.
posted by necessitas at 8:57 PM on July 6, 2009


I'm usually a non-fundamentalist vegetarian, but eating Octopuses is where I draw the line. Everytime someone orders octopus/squid, I give them a mini lecture on how they're too smart to be treated as food.
posted by dhruva at 8:58 PM on July 6, 2009


dhruva: "53I'm usually a non-fundamentalist vegetarian, but eating Octopuses is where I draw the line. Everytime someone orders octopus/squid, I give them a mini lecture on how they're too smart to be treated as food."

I'll take my lecture with wasabi and ginger please.
posted by Gravitus at 9:02 PM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I love this place. Dude gets called out in MeTa for possibly shilling in his first post and then he actually shows up in said MeTa thread, asks earnestly relevant questions about the place and its mores, follows through, studies up and posts a gem. Awesome. Carry on.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:05 PM on July 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Now this is a hell of a post. VERY nice work, whysharksmatter. :)
posted by zarq at 9:17 PM on July 6, 2009


Dude gets called out in MeTa for possibly shilling in his first post and then he actually shows up in said MeTa thread, asks earnestly relevant questions about the place and its mores, follows through, studies up and posts a gem. Awesome. Carry on.

I'm starting to suspect he might actually be an octopus.

(Why do sharks matter? Because they are tasty, that's why!)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:26 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is why you don't want a pet octopus. Because they get bored and you can't talk them for walks. I don't think that the guy holding the camera in that video realizes his octopus is trying to crawl out of his tank and strangle him. (Warning, if you like octopuses the above video is depressing.)

Here are some less depressed octopuses at a research center opening jars and climbing in flasks to get at crabs and whatnot. Be sure to watch to the end for the part where it goes oozing through habitrail tubes like some kind of creature from Abyss.

Here's a squid-cam video with possible colossal squid sighting at the end. Note how the squid with the camera/light attachment is showing signs of distress or possible warning fellow squid of danger by flashing, and how the other squids investigate the camera closely and bite at it.
posted by loquacious at 9:26 PM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


What do you call a male octopus?

A male octopus. Why?
What?
posted by Floydd at 9:28 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


idiopath: "18I found a great video of a cuttlefish attacking an octopus too distracted by playing with a spanner to defend itself."

The story related by the poster of the video in idiopath's link relates another story, with a happier ending for the octopus:

"Each year from April to June the cuttlefish off Sydney become extremely aggressive. They often follow divers and sometimes attack them. But they love octopus. I had a repeat experience last year in May, when I again had an octopus come out of its lair to try and take a shiny buckle which was attached to a rope. After a few minutes a cuttlefish attacked the octopus exactly as before. Unfortunately for the cuttlefish, this time the octopus managed to keep half its body free, and after a minute of intense struggle it slipped out of the cuttlefish's grip, and, I kid you not, sat on the cuttlefish's head. So there we were, I am looking at them holding my breath, the octopus is sitting on the cuttlefish's head, and the octopus is looking at me with a "Can you believe it" expression. After another minute of stillness, the octopus shot off in a cloud of ink, leaving the cuttlefish confused and exhausted. Unfortunately I did not have camera handy."
posted by WalterMitty at 9:30 PM on July 6, 2009 [7 favorites]


Why, oh why am I chasing down more YouTube video of octoPLEASEDONTHURTMEs opening containers of living food right before I go to bed?

Plus: Could a typical young man, armed only with a knife, (say, six or eight inches long) be trained to consistently "win" fights with a giant octopus? Assume no element of surprise.
posted by maudlin at 9:31 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


How cool would it be to make friends with an octopus for just one day?

I think this cool!
posted by humannaire at 9:37 PM on July 6, 2009


"Which specific area of the world has the highest density of great white sharks?"

They prefer cold, relatively shallow water. There are high concentrations off the coast of California (particularly the Farallon islands), southern Australia, and South Africa.

Actually, a friend of mine who works with Great Whites just unveiled a brand new site to find them in high concentrations earlier this week.

( This is kind of a self link since I posted two guest posts on this blog several months ago, but someone asked about where to find great white sharks and this is a brand new post about where to find great white sharks)
posted by WhySharksMatter at 9:43 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


why hasn't there been an octopus horror movie yet?

There has: "Tentacles" (1977), starring John Houston.

Perhaps best described as a Calamari Horror due to its Italian heritage (hoho). Here's the trailer.
posted by John Shaft at 9:45 PM on July 6, 2009


Great post, maaann. If you come to a meetup, will you do it all Joan-Embery-style, but with sharks and octopuses?
posted by heyho at 9:45 PM on July 6, 2009


One of the other disturbing aspects of octopus life is their sex life; in many species, the male loses his penis while mating; it takes him a year to grow it back.

No wonder they always seem so angry in the movies.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:47 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've had this open in a tab for over a week wanting it but not letting myself buy it. Octopuses are my next "thing," methinks.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:57 PM on July 6, 2009


What makes you such a big expert?

*checks user profile*

Oh.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:00 PM on July 6, 2009


These gigantic, many-tentacled, tiny-opening-traversing, shark-murdering, beagle-impersonating creatures are quite fascinaŽ̲̗̖͈̲̩͖͗ͩĂ̴̮̖̰̥̼̘̾ͫ̄̕L̜̼͖̯̟͈̪̝̓͌̈ͅG̶̫̟͂̿̑̃ͦ̃ͅÖ̢̢̦̻͈̱̹̩͙̗́̎
posted by DaDaDaDave at 10:06 PM on July 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


please let me know if there's anything you want to know about the oceans

Hey how about all the different kinds of sea life that can change colour at will? I've noticed a few kinds of fishes and rays that seemed to be able to change colour while diving in Pennekamp Park, and I've always wondered how common it was.

nice post - I love octopuses!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:12 PM on July 6, 2009


We really need to develop a strategy for the inevitable day when these things get tired of living underwater ...

I propose an armada of giant mechanical cuttlefish patrolling the coastlines.
(The sharks! They do nothing!)



Also, here is the opposite of the octopus escaping the box through a tiny hole,
it's an 8 Foot octopus in a 15 inch box
posted by sloe at 10:13 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Question: we can't eat octopusses because they're smart. What about squid?
posted by signal at 10:16 PM on July 6, 2009


Octopuses seem so malevolently intelligent. We understand so little about them.

I've seen a Silverback gorilla hide a cigarette from it's handler, but these stories about Octopuses frighten me. Invading a shark tank for a midnight snack? Color me emasculated.

It just goes to show that we really don't know very much about our own oceans. Shit, we know much more about the Moon than our own deep oceans.

I always liked the idea that any aliens that showed up over the millenia would obviously make their stay in the deeps. It's not like we're going there anytime soon.
posted by Sphinx at 10:40 PM on July 6, 2009


So who has the largest Pacific octopus in captivity?
posted by maxwelton at 10:48 PM on July 6, 2009


My mom scuba-dived with many a G.P.O. She claimed they were quite gentle and curious and would just calmly check you out if you let them. You had to be good at not freaking out though, in case they pulled off your mask.

She did get a nasty bite from one once.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 11:19 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


In many species, the male loses his penis while mating; it takes him a year to grow it back.

Only a year? Well that's still better than marriage!

(I'm here all week. Try the veal.)
posted by rokusan at 11:36 PM on July 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


Question: we can't eat octopusses because they're smart. What about squid?

Squid can eat octopuses.

(Because they lack our arbitrary moral baloney.)
posted by rokusan at 11:37 PM on July 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


why hasn't there been an octopus horror movie yet?

HERE
IT
COMES!

posted by benzenedream at 11:45 PM on July 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


octopuses freak me out - and I know there's no relation but damn if they don't look like elephants.
posted by moxiedoll at 11:48 PM on July 6, 2009


This is kind of a self link since I posted two guest posts on this blog several months ago, but someone asked about where to find great white sharks and this is a brand new post about where to find great white sharks

No worries, this is TOTALLY the kosher type of self-link, WSM. Thanks for being such a sport.
posted by pineapple at 11:50 PM on July 6, 2009


How did we find out that octopuses could open jars in the first place?
posted by empath at 11:50 PM on July 6, 2009


Here's a marine topic I'd love to know more about: Can you tell us more about the strange life-forms found around underwater volcanic vents? Thanks! (And great post. Watching the octopus snap that shark's spine was chilling.)
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:51 PM on July 6, 2009


I demand to know more about the sea snakes of Gunung Api.

Also, remoras are cool. Marine symbiotes are cool. Sexual dimorphism extremes. Brittle stars. Hermit crabs. Colonial superorganisms, salps, hydras. I want to know it all, man, even though my dad is a marine biologist my main exposure was catching jellyfish for a nickle each (25 cents for Aglantha, $1.00 for Nanomia).

But as an archaeologist, here is one question I wonder about: why do fish have bony skeletons and sharks and other Chondrichthyes have cartilagenous(sp) ones? It is hard to point to a structural advantage that would compensate for the (presumed) greater investment necessary in a bony skeleton: sharks get by just fine without one. Dogfish have very distinctive and durable vertebrae, while ratfish have very very distinctive teeth, but little else of these important creatures survives in the ground, which is frustrating sometimes. So, why the bony fish skeleton? Why not the bony shark skeleton? Why, WhySharksMatter, Why?
posted by Rumple at 12:44 AM on July 7, 2009


why hasn't there been an octopus horror movie yet?

And another: Megashark vs Giant Octopus

Great post - thanks!
posted by goo at 1:00 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]




I work with wildlife researchers. One researcher told a story of a colleague who was studying crabs. Every few evenings or so a crab would go missing from the tank. The researcher got sick of losing his study subjects so camped out in the same room as the tank for an evening to see what was happening. The culprit? A sneaky octopus from the lab next door.


There seems to be some type of octopus urban legend meme involving stories of crafty octos leaving their tanks to snack on other fish and then scurrying back to give the staff the "who, me?" eye the next morning. I've been hearing them in one from or another since high school biology class, when my teacher swore that the octopus at the California Academy of Sciences in SF had pulled off these kinds of shenanigans.

Has anyone posted this yet? It's a short TED talk on amazing underwater creatures and features a costume-changing octopus who can change its color and texture to perfectly match whatever its surroundings might be at the timewill mimic rocks and coral. It's worth it just to hear all the venture-capitalist billionaires in the audience make a collective "OOooooh!" The octopus shows up at about 3:45.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:07 AM on July 7, 2009


Octopus love, folk-style:

Octopus - Wintermitts

More arms to hold you / more hearts to love you
posted by elfgirl at 3:56 AM on July 7, 2009


octopuses freak me out - and I know there's no relation but damn if they don't look like elephants something from the darkest depths of H. P. Lovecraft's imagination.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:54 AM on July 7, 2009


Or rather, the darkest depths of H. P. Lovecraft's imagination looks like an octopus. The one place Cthulhu is described even uses the word "octopus" in the description.

In my mind, this just makes both octopuses and Lovecraft more wonderful.
posted by JHarris at 6:40 AM on July 7, 2009


I found a great video of a cuttlefish attacking an octopus too distracted by playing with a spanner to defend itself.
posted by idiopath at 10:32 PM on July 6 [20 favorites -] [!]


I wanted idiopath's link to have a happy ending. Now I am bummed (and hungry).
posted by cjorgensen at 10:41 PM on July 6 [3 favorites -] [!]


Seriously, fuck that cuttlefish.
posted by Who_Am_I at 6:40 AM on July 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


There are stories of octopuses leaving their environment to get some human-placed food and then returning to where they came from going back to Pliny the Elder. Any evidence yet? Any witnesses? Or just friends of friends who swear it's true?
posted by eccnineten at 6:56 AM on July 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


Question: we can't eat octopusses because they're smart. What about squid?

What about humans? If we find out octopuses are smarter than humans, can we eat humans? 'Cause I want to eat a human.
posted by Evangeline at 7:10 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Otto, an octopus in an aquarium in Germany created a bit of havoc last year. He juggled the hermit crabs in his tank, frequently rearranged its decor and threw rocks at the glass. He also short-circuited an aquarium light by squirting water at it, causing mini power failures that endangered other residents.
posted by zarq at 7:14 AM on July 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


God vs. the Kraken?

Sorry... I had to. It's a fascinating game that is taking up a scary amount of my brainspace these days, and when I saw this post one of my first thoughts was: "ooh! I bet Giant Pacific Octopus is in the game!". Anyroad. Back to the wicked subject at hand.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 7:15 AM on July 7, 2009


Can't resist adding this link as well, to last year's Oktapodi. The animated film was nominated for an Academy Award. Previously covered on the Blue.
posted by zarq at 7:15 AM on July 7, 2009


To his surprise he saw the octopus climb out of its tank, walk/crawl across the floor, climb up and into the community tank and proceed to eat a fish or two before returning to his own tank.

This sounds apocryphal, but I desperately want to believe this can happen. Are there any verified accounts of octopuses walking around on land long enough to make it to another tank?
posted by ignignokt at 7:25 AM on July 7, 2009


Huh, watching Violet the Octopus open that jar was interesting. I was expecting, in my opposable-thumb-centric way, that she'd wrap a tentacle around the jar and another around the lid and twist it off. Instead she took it under her mantle (? canopy? that drapey part between head and arms) and futzed around for 5 minutes. Did she figure that out on her own? Seems pretty inefficient; I wonder if she'd try the opposable-tentacle approach if she watched human hands open the jar a few times. Marine biology is so cool!

*biochemist sighs wistfully*
posted by Quietgal at 7:26 AM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Evangeline: If we find out octopuses are smarter than humans, can we eat humans? 'Cause I want to eat a human.

This MeFi post is brought to you by Soylent Red and Soylent Yellow, high-energy vegetable concentrates, and new, delicious Soylent Green: the miracle food of high-energy plankton gathered from the oceans of the world.

What?
posted by zarq at 7:28 AM on July 7, 2009


Evangeline: If we find out octopuses are smarter than humans, can we eat humans? 'Cause I want to eat a human.

remind me not go to any meetups with her
posted by ShawnString at 7:48 AM on July 7, 2009


This sounds apocryphal, but I desperately want to believe this can happen. Are there any verified accounts of octopuses walking around on land long enough to make it to another tank?

This thread on the Snopes message board references an episode of Nature called The Octopus Show. Unfortunately the PBS site doesn't seem to have the video online anymore. Maybe you can find it on Bit Torrent or YouTube.
posted by scalefree at 8:06 AM on July 7, 2009


Just another thing recommendating MeFi and its community -- I had no idea so many other people loved cephalopods.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:39 AM on July 7, 2009


signal : Question: we can't eat octopusses because they're smart. What about squid?

Evangeline : If we find out octopuses are smarter than humans, can we eat humans? 'Cause I want to eat a human.

And now we've now come full circle, though I'm thrilled to see that turning Evangeline off of squid previously was enough to make her a bit of a cannibal. I feel like my work here is now done.

On the subject of cuttlefish, I now have a couple of eggs sitting in a tank not 20 feet from where I sleep. After watching that video, I'm pretty convinced that somehow, these will be the thing that finally put a stop to me.

And it's weird that someone linked to that TED talk thread. I was looking for my comment about the taxonomy of the octopus just yesterday.
posted by quin at 8:41 AM on July 7, 2009


Rumple: I demand to know more about the sea snakes of Gunung Api.

What more would you specifically like to know, Rumple? I made that Divehappy webpage you linked to - I'm thrilled you enjoyed it. So thrilled I paid $5 to sign up to MetaFilter and tell you.

And just to keep this on topic - here's a wunderpus pretending to be a sea snake.
posted by divehappy at 8:45 AM on July 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


scalefree: Not to be confused with Octopus paxarbolis, the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Ahem.

I read halfway down the page before I realized it wasn't real. So um... thanks. :P

*facepalm*
posted by zarq at 8:55 AM on July 7, 2009


I read halfway down the page before I realized it wasn't real. So um... thanks. :P

Don't feel so bad. You're not alone.
posted by scalefree at 9:13 AM on July 7, 2009


This sounds apocryphal, but I desperately want to believe this can happen. Are there any verified accounts of octopuses walking around on land long enough to make it to another tank?

I've looked all over and can't find it now, but I definitely saw a video of an octopus climbing out of a tank, onto a table, then into another tank where there was some food.

They had the two tanks very close together, maybe just two feet apart, so that the octopus could see the food in the other tank. It didn't take him long to figure out how to get something to eat!
posted by orme at 9:18 AM on July 7, 2009


But as an archaeologist, here is one question I wonder about: why do fish have bony skeletons and sharks and other Chondrichthyes have cartilagenous(sp) ones? It is hard to point to a structural advantage that would compensate for the (presumed) greater investment necessary in a bony skeleton: sharks get by just fine without one. Dogfish have very distinctive and durable vertebrae, while ratfish have very very distinctive teeth, but little else of these important creatures survives in the ground, which is frustrating sometimes. So, why the bony fish skeleton? Why not the bony shark skeleton? Why, WhySharksMatter, Why?

I believe I can answer this. WhySharksMatter, I'd appreciate it if you would correct anything I screw up below. :)

Current theory is that sharks and rays (chondrichthyans) have lost the ability to make bones -- in other words, their cartilaginous skeletons are a derived condition. A cartilaginous skeleton is lighter, more flexible and elastic than bone, and is well-suited to aquatic environments since it does not need to support a body's full weight under gravity. However, cartilage is less capable (perhaps incapable?) of remodeling, which is a distinct disadvantage for a skeletal structure.

Thanks to the gravity problem, there are no land animals with an entirely cartilaginous skeleton. It is assumed that aquatic-based chordates such as fish retained their bony skeletons as a positive adaptation because they offered greater protection and allowed for more improved flexibility. Evolution transformed the primitive, reduced notochord such as that which sharks possess into a flexible, protected spinal column. Since sharks have few predators, there is less pressure to adapt and evolve.
posted by zarq at 9:29 AM on July 7, 2009


Awesome stuff. My husband and I once (I believe it was in 1999) watched a documentary called something like "A Year in the Life of an Octopus." It was the most fascinating nature doc we've ever seen and we still get nostalgic for it and that octopus. I've googled, with no luck. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

(Look, it's an AskMe in the comments!)
posted by threeturtles at 9:41 AM on July 7, 2009


zarq -- thanks, that sounds interesting to me, and might explain the selective boniness of certain shark elements, such as the dogfish verts I mentioned. So basically, sharks have less need to be able to survive injury because they seldom get injured, being predators -- I presume that is what you mean by them having lost the ability to remodel their skeletons?

WhySharksMatterguy: why are there no vegetarian sharks? Ridicule from their peers? Or merely an ecological explanation?

divehappy -- welcome to metafilter! Oh man those are such cool pictures. Are those sea snakes venomous, or poisonous? I presume the former -- in which case, how do they open their mouths underwater for the big bite? and if I learn to dive this week can I cash in my retirement money and go to the underwater volcano next week? Or do I have to be a competent diver. Because I really want to go there.

Sea snake vs. Octopus. The betting book is open.
posted by Rumple at 10:16 AM on July 7, 2009


why are there no vegetarian sharks?

Well, they aren't exclusively vegetarians, but whale sharks are filter feeders who eat phytoplankton and macro-algae.

Now, I'm now ichthyologist but I suspect that the reason you don't see a lot of plant life in shark diets is that most of them are fast moving predators and that kind of lifestyle requires a high caloric intake that you can only get from eating fish and the like.

But hopefully our resident experts can shed more light on the subject.
posted by quin at 10:39 AM on July 7, 2009


Very cool, thanks.
posted by schyler523 at 10:46 AM on July 7, 2009


You're welcome! :)

So basically, sharks have less need to be able to survive injury because they seldom get injured, being predators -- I presume that is what you mean by them having lost the ability to remodel their skeletons?

Yep. Since most sharks are near the top of their food chains, (depends on the species) they most likely need less physical protection from predators than say, a sardine. They also may be able to afford to heal at a slower pace.

Bone remodeling happens throughout a chordate's lifetime: bone is removed from and added back to the skeleton. This helps maintain strength and integrity. But cartilage remodeling happens a lot more slowly, (if it happens at all,) resulting in a much slower healing process.

I should mention that I'm no expert on this topic. But I'm pretty sure I haven't screwed up the facts too much. ;)
posted by zarq at 10:57 AM on July 7, 2009


A greek scholar friend of mine likes to point out that the proper plural, in his opinion, is octopodes.
posted by redbeard at 11:42 AM on July 7, 2009


Ask Oxford:
Although it is often supposed that octopi is the 'correct' plural of octopus, and it has been in use for longer than the usual Anglicized plural octopuses, it in fact originates as an error. Octopus is not a simple Latin word of the second declension, but a Latinized form of the Greek word oktopous, and its 'correct' plural would logically be octopodes.

Other words ending in -us show a very varied pattern. Like octopi, the plural hippopotami is now generally taken to be either funny or absurdly pedantic, and the usual plural is hippopotamuses. Common usage appears to indicate a slight preference for termini rather than terminuses, but syllabuses rather than syllabi. Other usual forms include cacti and gladioli, and our files at the dictionary department show scarcely any examples of nucleuses or funguses. (Omnibi is simply a joke, and quite ungrammatical in Latin!)

posted by zarq at 12:00 PM on July 7, 2009


Thanks for the welcome Rumple! You asked "Are those sea snakes venomous, or poisonous? I presume the former -- in which case, how do they open their mouths underwater for the big bite?"

Yes, they're venomous, injecting venom from their fangs. Sea snakes need to go to the surface every 20 - 30 mins to breathe, and have valves over their nostrils which are closed underwater. They don't open their mouths that wide, although this Scuba-Doc page tells me "Persistent myths about sea snakes include the mistaken idea that they can't bite very effectively. The truth is that their short fangs (2.5-4.5mm) are adequate to penetrate the skin, and they can open their small mouths wide enough to bite a table top. It is said that even a small snake can bite a man's thigh. Sea snakes can swallow a fish that is more than twice the diameter of their neck."

Yikes! However, they are generally placid if inquisitive - I think a sea snake would have to be super aggressive to actually attack a diver. There has never been a recorded case of that happening as far as I'm aware. (Trawler fishermen have got bitten when sea snakes get caught in their nets).

"and if I learn to dive this week can I cash in my retirement money and go to the underwater volcano next week? Or do I have to be a competent diver. Because I really want to go there."

It's actually remarkably easy diving around Gunung Api, so yes, if you're certified, you could! The big problem is actually getting there - the Banda Sea is only calm for a few months each year and the volcano is so remote it's a crapshoot every time a boat attempts to make the crossing. It's not unusual for boats to turn back. I got lucky on this trip.

I posted some other pix of the weird sea creatures to be found in Ambon (which includes a wonderpus) and the amazing man-sized corals at Nusa Laut, both of which we visited on the same trip.
posted by divehappy at 12:06 PM on July 7, 2009


I'm fairly sure there is a animaniacs-style song to be written based on this. It all scans so well.

The plural form of octupus
befuddled one and all of us
until we went back to the greek
to find the best way speak

or something, i dunno, i'm bad at this sort of thing...
posted by empath at 12:20 PM on July 7, 2009


A greek scholar friend of mine likes to point out that the proper plural, in his opinion, is octopodes.

I myself am a Doctor of Philosophy, learned in all kinds of shit, and I tell you now that that plural of "octopus" is "octomopuseses."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:04 PM on July 7, 2009


let me know if there's anything you want to know about the oceans... particularly about my specialty, sharks

HOW IS SHARK BABBY FORMED? HOW SHARK GET PRAGNENT?

they need to do way instain sharks who eat thier babbies, because these babbies can't btie back? it was on the news this mroing, a shark in ocane who had eat her three pups!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:09 PM on July 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


and I tell you now that that plural of "octopus" is "octomopuseses."

Sure, that's the accepted version that the library will give you, but here in the "real world" we use the term our parents and grandparents called them: "octopotamacuses"
posted by quin at 1:23 PM on July 7, 2009


HOW IS SHARK BABBY FORMED? HOW SHARK GET PRAGNENT?

Someone should really feed this awful, awful meme and everyone who perpetuates it to the sharks.

Results 1 - 10 of about 39,500 for pragnent

Somewhere, a sad, sweet octopus is weeping little inky tears for humanity.
posted by zarq at 1:29 PM on July 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Current theory is that sharks and rays (chondrichthyans) have lost the ability to make bones"

Is that the current theory? (I think) I learned that chondricthyans and placoderms shared a common ancestor (boneless) and that the chondricythans kept their cartilage while the placoderms formed bony plates eventually evolving into Osteichthyes (bony fish we know and love today). No?

I guess it could make sense that sharks had bones and then lost them (forget the term for that), but I hadn't heard that.
posted by rosswald at 1:51 PM on July 7, 2009


The answer Alright, nm.
posted by rosswald at 1:53 PM on July 7, 2009


They really need to do way instain zarqs who feed thier meme perpetrators to teh sharks, because these meme perpetrators can't frihgt back excapt with harmless lolcats.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:00 PM on July 7, 2009


They really need to do way instain zarqs who feed thier meme perpetrators to teh sharks, because these meme perpetrators can't frihgt back excapt with harmless lolcats.

Fight fire with hellfire.
posted by zarq at 2:04 PM on July 7, 2009


The answer Alright, nm.

It's weirdly counterintuitive, isn't it?
posted by zarq at 2:05 PM on July 7, 2009


Holy shit, cuttlefish have just jumped to the top of my "freaky things to very please never meet" list.
posted by Iosephus at 2:22 PM on July 7, 2009


metapuses
posted by orme at 3:14 PM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nomiconic: Save the Pacific Tree Octopus.
posted by mwhybark at 4:36 PM on July 7, 2009


For all those who felt bad for the octopus who was eaten by a cuttlefish:
Here's a video of a pufferfish eating a cuttlefish. Poor little cuttlefish didn't stand a chance.
Video notwithstanding, I think that cuttlefish are the dudes that are gonna take over, without leaving the water. Their eerie mind-control powers will enable them to remote-pilot the land-dwelling future octopodes into our homes, and it'll all be over.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 4:49 PM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


divehappy, Welcome to MeFi! I *love* the photos and descriptions on your site. (Especially of the manta rays!) Incredible.
posted by zarq at 4:56 PM on July 7, 2009


>We really need to develop a strategy for the inevitable day when these things get >tired of living underwater ...

The Kraken Wakes....
posted by acrasis at 5:03 PM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, there's been a lot of positive feedback to this post (unlike my last one)... thanks, everyone!

I'll try to answer everyone's questions, but if I missed one, please pester me about it. Sorry it took me so long, I was in the field today catching sharks... and we caught over 200. Needless to say, this is time consuming and exhausting, but I'm always happy to answer questions about the ocean and its creatures.

Many of these have been answered (usually pretty well) by other members, but since they were asked to me directly I wanted to respond directly.


"WhySharksMatterguy: why are there no vegetarian sharks? "

Most large fish are predators. Grouper and tuna are terrifying if you're a small fish. Dolphins are also predators. As someone pointed out, though, the largest shark (the Whale shark) eats microscopic plankton (technically animals but not in the sense we usually think of them).


"“why do fish have bony skeletons and sharks and other Chondrichthyes have cartilaginous(sp) ones?”"

As someone correctly pointed out, the ancestral shark had bones just like "regular" fish. Sharks are not "primitive", this is a trait they evolved. There are HUGE advantages in terms of flexibility- as I can attest from this afternoon's adventures, sharks are more than flexible enough to reach your hand with their mouth if you grab their tail (fortunately, I have quick reflexes and was not injured).


"an episode of Nature called The Octopus Show."

This is an AMAZING documentary. Buy it on Amazon. I have a copy and love it. It shows footage of the octopus escaping its tank, eating from a neighboring tank, and returning to its tank.

I did originally hear this "urban legend" from a friend of a friend, except that the person that I heard it from was the director of the National Aquarium in Baltimore. I trusted him, and the video in the octopus show proves it.


"“we can't eat octopusses because they're smart.”

Says who?


"“Can you tell us more about the strange life-forms found around underwater volcanic vents?”

One of my best friends studies these critters so I know a lot about them. I'll save this for a future FPP.

"“Hey how about all the different kinds of sea life that can change colour at will?”"

I actually have a scientific paper coming out about two species of rays that can change color, so I know a lot about this topic as well and will save it for a future FPP.



Again, if you asked me a question and I missed it, shoot me a MeFi message or post your question again here. I'm glad that you guys like the post.
posted by WhySharksMatter at 6:08 PM on July 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


"holy god i wish i was making these cephalopod facts up!"

has nobody yet linked the obligatory Dinosaur Comics strip?!??
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:18 AM on July 8, 2009


I love that we shamed a really nice guy into posting links for us! This is what America Cephalopodia is all about.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:22 AM on July 8, 2009


Holy shit, cuttlefish have just jumped to the top of my "freaky things to very please never meet" list.

I don't know. Last time I was snorkeling I ran into a couple of cuttlefish. That was pretty awesome. They didn't try to eat me. Seemed pretty chill. Then again, I'm not an octopus.
posted by threeturtles at 6:42 AM on July 8, 2009


Even if it did try to eat you, I am sure two of you would have gotten away.
posted by idiopath at 6:50 AM on July 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


The Michael Jackson of cephalopods, moonwalking and getting lighter, hiding from the press.
posted by nickyskye at 9:32 AM on July 8, 2009


I used to be afraid of octopuses, but now I know from the video that I can open jars way faster than they can. Or at least my boyfriend can, when the lid is really stuck.
posted by vytae at 12:02 PM on July 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Zarq, thank you for the welcome! Those manta ray photos are awesome, aren't they - they're taken by my friend Julian Cohen - he is a great underwater photographer. (If you're interested in more great u/w photography, check out Tony Wu's blog and the FINS magazine Flickr group (esp the Photo of the Day - find the latest thread in the Discussion area).

Re cuttlefish, they are one of my favourite creatures to encounter whilst diving - I know they like to hurt octopuses but they leave divers alone. They also do some of the most bizarre things - check out these two (badly shot, apologies in advance) videos I made
Cuttlefish Face Stretching
Pulsing Stripe Cuttlefish – Like CGI Gone Mad

That said, it's recently been discovered the tiny and beautiful flamboyant cuttlefish is highly poisonous, so best watch out for that one... (link goes to Youtube vid)
posted by divehappy at 2:16 AM on July 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks divehappy! Nice links and videos.

pssst the link to your website in your MeFi profile is borked
posted by Rumple at 10:58 AM on July 9, 2009


ooh bugger. Thank you Rumple. Fixed now - I hope
posted by divehappy at 11:32 AM on July 9, 2009


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