Top 10 Examples of Awesomely Interesting Octopus Behavior!

Top 10 Examples of Awesomely Interesting Octopus Behavior!

Top 10 Examples of Awesomely Interesting Octopus Behavior!

Common octopus Octopus vulgaris
Common octopus Octopus vulgaris. Image credit: Paul and Jill cc2.0

Octopuses — and yes, that’s the correct plural for octopus — are amazing creatures. They have been around for nearly 300 million years. They have three hearts. They have blue blood. They can do eight different things at the same time. And that’s just what they are. Below are ten of the most amazing things an octopus can do.


1. A Tight Squeeze

Octopuses have no outer shells or inner skeletons. In short, they have no bones. Their bodies are made of soft muscle, with the only hard part being their beaks, which are made of chitin, a natural polymer similar to keratin, the substance our nails are made of. Chitin is also what makes the scales on a butterfly’s wings and the shell of a crab.

It is no wonder, then, that octopuses can squeeze into the tightest spaces — any space their beaks can fit into. In fact, when threatened, octopuses will squeeze under rocks.

In captivity, an octopus has been observed squeezing itself inside a bottle, while another octopus, which weighed 600 pounds (272 kilograms), was able to fit itself through a hole the size of a quarter.




2. Octopus See, Octopus Do — Camouflage Octopus

mimic octopus

Octopuses can hide under rocks, but what happens when there’s nothing to hide under? Simple. They hide in plain sight by changing themselves into something else.

Indeed, octopuses are masters of disguise. They can change to look like objects like rocks or other animals, changing not just their color but also their shape and texture, to put on a convincing act and effectively escape the attention of predators — all in the blink of an eye.

How do they do it? As mentioned previously, octopuses have soft bodies, so they can easily change shape. As for changing colors, they can accomplish this because they have special cells (called chromatophores) under their skin. Each chromatophore has a pigment inside and when the cell contracts, the pigment comes to the surface, turning the skin into a different color. The octopus can also contract its papillae (the projections on its skin), which can make it look smooth, spiky or bumpy, whatever texture it needs to be.

All octopuses can do this, but the most skillful of them all, the Mystique of the octopus world, is undoubtedly the mimic octopus, which can transform itself into dozens of other creatures, including a sole, a lion-fish and a sea snake.


3. A Dose of Venom

Blue-Ringed Octopus, Mabul Island, Malaysia
Blue-Ringed Octopus, Mabul Island, Malaysia. Image credit: Angell Williams cc2.0

All octopuses are venomous. Using their beaks, they drill a hole into the shell of the fish they are trying to eat, then they inject venom, which is combined with their saliva, to kill the fish inside before sucking it out. The octopus can also use its strong beak to pry a shell open, inject a deadly dose of venom and then scrape the fish out using its barbed tongue.

There is only one species of octopus, however, that possesses venom deadly enough to kill humans — the blue-ringed octopus. Strangely, the blue-ringed octopus is very small, just about 5 inches (13 centimeters) long and as heavy as a golf ball, and yet its venom is a thousand times more toxic than cyanide. One dose is enough to kill a human if left untreated.


4. Gone in a Blink

octopus-jet_propulsion
Octopuses swim by expelling a jet of water from a contractile mantle, and aiming it via a muscular siphon. Image credit: albert kok GFDL

Octopuses can walk across the ocean floor using their eight arms, studying their environment along the way. However, there is a faster way that octopuses can travel, which comes in especially handy when they need to escape. They can travel via jet propulsion.

Imagine filling a balloon with air and then letting it go. It will fly away quickly because of the releasing air pressure. In the same way, an octopus sucks up water through a hole in its head, and seals off all other openings. When its mantle is full, the octopus contracts its muscles, squeezing all the water out in one go. The resulting force pushes the octopus quickly forward — as quick as 25 miles (40 kilometers) per hour!


5. Consider Yourself Inked

Sometimes, an octopus needs more than speed to get away. It also needs a distraction, which is where its ink comes in.

Like squid and cuttlefish, octopuses can produce ink in a special sac inside their bodies, and release it by contracting their muscles. This ink is not the same that we use for pens, though. Octopus ink is made up of melanin, the same pigment that gives color to our skin, but in more concentrated amounts.

There are two ways that octopuses use their ink. First, they simply release a cloud of ink, which acts like a smokescreen, distracting the predator and preventing it from going after them as they make their escape. Second, they combine the ink with their mucus — the same stuff that comes out of your nose when you have a cold. The ink-mucus mixture is then released in blobs, some of which can look just like the octopus, serving as a decoy.

An octopus’ ink is not just thick. It contains a compound called tyrosine, which makes it hard for the predator to smell and taste, making it lose its appetite. It is an amazing weapon, indeed.


6. Missing Parts

octopus arms - regenerate

You’ve probably heard of lizards and salamanders losing their tails on purpose in order to distract and confuse predators, giving them a chance to escape. Guess what? Octopuses can do this, too — they can break one of their arms off on purpose, and with seven remaining, it shouldn’t be a great loss, especially since the lost arm grows back in weeks.

An octopus’ arm has so many nerves it might as well have its own brain. For this reason, octopus arms can function independently — imagine having eight hands and then doing a different task with each — and an octopus arm can move for a long time after it has been cut off. The sight of the severed (but still moving) arm makes an excellent distraction. You would probably be confused, too, if you saw it.


7. Out of the Water

Recently, a video was taken of an octopus crawling across land, making people wonder if octopuses can survive out of the water. The truth is they can’t, because they need water in order to breathe. However, they can move across moist patches of land or rocks for short periods of time, in order to eat crabs and shellfish or to escape predators, using the suckers on their eight arms to propel them slowly across.


8. Psychic Octopus?

Oktopus-Orakel_Paul_mit_Schuh
Paul, next to a soccer boot with the German flag colours, in his tank. Image credit: Tilla GFDL

Paul the Octopus is one of the most famous octopuses ever to have lived, and it’s not because of his unusual size or appearance or because he can juggle balls using his eight arms. Rather, Paul was an octopus believed to be psychic. He could predict the outcome of soccer matches and was especially known for predicting various wins in the 2010 World Cup. In order to make his prediction, Paul was presented with two boxes of food, each with the flag of the competing teams. Whichever Paul chose was the team predicted to win and surprisingly, it often did win. Scientists, however, do not believe there is such a thing as a psychic octopus, and say that Paul simply chose the color or design he liked better. The fact that the team with the flag he chose won was simply coincidence.


9. Smarter Than You Think — Octopus Intelligence

Scientists may not agree whether an octopus can be psychic, but they all agree that the octopus is a very smart creature, possibly one of the smartest animals on earth.

What makes them think an octopus is smart? For one, octopuses can use tools, just like apes. They can use rocks to break open clams and to seal the entrance of their lairs. They can also use jellyfish tentacles as weapons to ward off predators.

In captivity, octopuses can solve problems and mazes. They can be taught to differentiate between patterns. They can disassemble objects, like the valves of a tank at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Octopuses can play as well, which scientists believe is a sign of intelligence, and the fact that they have many different ways to escape predators and many varied techniques to hunt also shows just how smart they can be.




10. A Coconut or an Octopus?

Do you want to hear ore proof that the octopus is smart? The veined octopus has been observed collecting coconut shells scattered on the ocean floor. What does it do with them? It cleans the shell. If the shell is a half, it hides under it, using it as armor. If the shell is a whole, the veined octopus slips inside and uses the shell as a home, much like the way hermit crabs use shells. Now, that’s an excellent example of resourcefulness and improvisation!

Want more? Visit:
15 Interesting Facts about the Octopus
The Octopus – Alien of the Deep!
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The Amazing Octopus – Questions Answered!
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True Facts About The Octopus.


Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Octopus
http://www.onekind.org/be_inspired/animals_a_z/octopus/
http://animals.howstuffworks.com/marine-life/octopus4.htm
http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/octopus_cyanea_locomotion

To view the complete list of sources, please click here.

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