Football psychic, delicious with black pepper and lemon, or great to see on a dive, whatever your opinion on the octopus, one thing is certain, there is a lot more to out 8 legged friends than meets the eye.
The octopus is a type of mollusc, the same family as clams and mussels and belongs to the sub-species cephalopod. This means ‘head to foot’ in Latin and describes the fact that the ‘feet’ are attached to the creatures head.
Many of the amazing features of octopi relate to their self preservation mechanisms. A network of pigment cells and muscles allows them to instantly match the colour and texture of their surroundings making them virtually invisible to passing predators and sadly, divers. When threatened they are able to squirt ink into the water surrounding them and hide their escape, the ink also contains a substance to dull their attackers sense of smell which makes them harder to track. Should all of this fail and the poor octopus finds himself in the jaws of the enemy they even have the ability to loose one arm allowing it to escape. After 6-8 weeks a new arm grows again.
The Houdini of the reef. The octopus’ only solid body part is its small beak, the result of this is that the octopus is extremely flexible, allowing it to manoeuvre through any space marginally larger than its beak.
When reproducing the female lays up to 50,000 eggs which she hides with her in a small reef hideaway until they are ready to hatch. The mother whilst standing guard over her eggs, is unable to hunt for food, so actually eats one of her 8 legs (perhaps she is partial to lemon and black pepper herself?). With no maternal sentimentality, once the babies hatch, the female sends the babies out into the open sea to fend for themselves. The male dies shortly after mating and the female dies shortly after her babies hatch.
Physiologically the octopus is unusual, it has three hearts, light blue blood and venomous saliva to stun its prey. Mentally they have shown intelligence and memory skills; an octopus faced with a meal in a sealed jar will eventually work out how to unscrew the lid, the next time they are faced with the same problem they take the lid off immediately. Some octopus when faced with a choice of two flags will indicate the winner of a football game…admittedly this was a particular octopus called Paul, but the possibilities are endless!