The Amazing Octopus – Questions Answered!


The Amazing Octopus – Questions Answered!


Octopuses are like the superheroes of the animal world. They can change shape. They can squeeze into tight spaces. They can lose and regrow arms. They can do eight different things at the same time. Indeed, octopuses are unique and amazing creatures and in case you want to know more about them, here are the answers to the most common octopus questions.

Q: Where do octopuses live?

Octopus habitat - Giant pacific octopus (Octopus dofleini)
Giant pacific octopus (Octopus dofleini) on boulder habitat at 115 meters depth. Photographer: Linda Snook, NOAA Photo Library cc2.0

A: Octopuses can be found all over the world, in both warm waters and cold waters, near shorelines and in open oceans, in reefs and on the ocean floor. Their size, features, abilities and lifestyle change depending on where they live.

Q: What do octopus eat?

Octopus diet - Veined Octopus - Amphioctopus Marginatus eating a Crab
Veined Octopus – Amphioctopus Marginatus eating a Crab. Image credit: prilfish cc2.0

A: A bottom-dwelling octopus or an octopus that lives on the ocean floor will eat crabs, clams, sea snails and bristle worms, sea worms that are covered in tiny tentacles that look like the bristles of a toothbrush. An octopus that lives in the open ocean eats mostly fish, prawns, and smaller squid and cuttlefish, even smaller octopuses.

When eating shellfish, an octopus first drills a hole into the shell or pries it open using its strong beak, then injects a deadly dose of venom, which is mixed with its saliva. When eating fish, they pounce on it, using their arms like a net and trapping it, or they grasp it using their powerful arms, then they inject it with venom before eating it.

Q: Is an octopus a mammal?

Cephalopod - Cuttlefish
Cephalopod – Cuttlefish. Image credit: Bill Abbott cc2.0

A: No. Mammals are animals that use lungs to breathe and give birth to live young, which they feed milk. An octopus has gills instead of lungs and lays eggs – from a few dozens to hundreds of thousands.

And no, the octopus isn’t a fish, either. All fishes have backbones and gills and most of them have scales and are cold-blooded (they take on the temperature of their environment). While octopuses have gills and are cold-blooded, they do not have backbones or scales. In fact, octopuses have no bones. They have skin that can be covered by bumps or spikes. They also have a more complex nervous system than fishes.

Instead, an octopus is a mollusk, making it related to clams, oysters, slugs and snails. Specifically, it is a cephalopod, which is the combination of the Greek words for ‘head’ and ‘feet’. Cephalopods, after all, have a large head and many feet. Other cephalopods include squid and cuttlefish.

Q: What is the lifespan of an octopus?

Octopus lifespan - dead octopus
Dead octopus by Eugene Peretz cc2.0

A: Perhaps the only non-amazing thing about an octopus is its short lifespan. Most octopuses can live only 1 to 2 years, which can go by in the blink of an eye. In captivity, they can live for up to 5 years.

Both male and female octopuses die months after mating. The males die simply but for the females, it is different. Shortly after their eggs hatch, their cells die off one by one starting from the inside out until there is not a single one left.

Q: What is the color of an octopus?

Mimic octopus. They are notable for being able to change their skin color and texture in order to blend in with their environment

A: Octopuses vary in color. There are red octopuses, brown octopuses, orange octopuses, purple ones, blue ones, black ones, green ones. But here’s the thing. It’s hard to find out what an octopus’ natural color is because it can change color in a second. Each octopus has cells under its skin that contain different colors and it can control which of these colors come to the surface. In this way, an octopus can stay disguised no matter where it is.

Q: What is an octopus’ blood color?

A: Octopuses are royalty. They have blue blood. This is because their blood is copper-based instead of iron-based. Why? Usually, octopuses live in environments where the temperatures are low and there is little oxygen, which makes it hard for them to breathe. Their blue blood, called hemocyanin, transports the oxygen more effectively and conserves it, allowing them to survive.

Q: Do octopus have teeth?

Suckers on octopus arm
Suckers on octopus arm. Image credit: David Abercrombie cc2.0

A: Not in the standard sense or not the same teeth as you and I and sharks and dogs have. But they do have teeth – four kinds, in fact. An octopus has three kinds of teeth inside its mouth, including those around its tongue, which are used to drill holes into thick shells of other mollusks. The fourth kind of teeth can be found on the suckers of its arms, which are shaped like hooks.

Q: What different types of octopus are there?

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

A: There are roughly 300 known species of octopus. The most popular is the common octopus, which is found in all of the world’s tropical waters and has arms that can grow over three feet long.

Other well-known octopus species include the blue-ringed octopus, which, though only a few inches long, carries the only venom deadly to humans; the mimic octopus which is known to be the best at shape-shifting, imitating dozens of other animals and objects; the dumbo octopus which has small earlike fins on the top of its head and the veined octopus, which is also now known as the coconut octopus because of its habit of gathering coconut shells and using them as helmets or homes on the ocean floor.

Q: What is the biggest octopus in the world?

Giant pacific octopus - Enteroctopus dofleini
Giant pacific octopus – Enteroctopus dofleini. Image credit: vidalia_11cc2.0

A: The biggest octopus in the world is the giant Pacific octopus. Found in the cold waters of the Pacific, its arm span can reach up to 20 feet long. It can also weigh over 100 pounds. The largest giant Pacific octopus on record ha an arm span of 32 feet and weighed 300 pounds.

Q: Is there really a tree climbing octopus?

The Pacific Northwest tree climbing octopus was a hoax

A: No. Some crabs can climb trees but not octopuses. An octopus cannot even live out of water, though it can crawl across wet sand or rocks for a short period of time when escaping a predator or searching for food.

The Pacific Northwest tree climbing octopus was a hoax, part of an experiment to test just how much seventh-graders believe everything they read on the internet.

Want more? Visit:
15 Interesting Facts about the Octopus …
The Octopus – Alien of the Deep!
10 Dumbo Octopus Facts & Adaptations!
Top 10 Examples of Awesomely Interesting Octopus Behavior!
Octopus Quiz!


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