Creature Feature: Giant Pacific Octopus

Happy World Octopus Day!

NOAA Photo Library Giant pacific octopus (Octopus dofleini) on boulder habitat at 115 meters depth. Latitude 38 02 N., Longitude 123 29 W. California, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. 2004. Photographer: Linda Snook. http://www.flickr.com/photos/51647007@N08/5018036597/

NOAA Photo Library
Giant pacific octopus (Octopus dofleini) on boulder habitat at 115 meters depth. Latitude 38 02 N., Longitude 123 29 W. California, Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. 2004.
Photographer: Linda Snook.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/51647007@N08/5018036597/

Anyone who has ever tried to reach up into a vending machine for a candy bar that didn’t fall, dropped their car keys between the seat and center console, or attempted to put on a prom dress a few years after graduation knows: it is frustrating when you just can’t fit!  Here to rub it in your face is an animal that could fit into any backless gown from sophomore year, the Giant Pacific Octopus, Enteroctopus dofleini!

These guys are seriously flexible, and that is one reason the Giant Pacific Octopus is MSI Instructor Mark’s favorite marine animal.  They can fit almost anywhere! Octopuses are invertebrates which mean they have no spine and therefore, no bones. Their soft, malleable bodies allow them to go anywhere they want. The only restriction is their parrot-like beak, which they use to open animals with exoskeletons and hard shells.  Even the largest octopus can fit into quarter size holes. That is pretty impressive for the Giant Pacific Octopus, which can reach up to 50 pounds.  The largest ever record was 600 pounds!

That’s not the only fascinating thing about this octopus. They are masters of disguise. Normally the Giant Pacific octopus can range from a reddish, to brownish, to pinkish color. However, when feeling threatened they can flash a warning signal of colors.  If they prefer to hide,  octopodes can blend seamlessly into every aspect of their environment, including the apparent textures. Octopuses are able to change their color patterns due to chromatophore organs. Chromatophore organs consist of pigment cells, elastic cells, muscle fibers and nerves.  If people could do that, we’d never need to buy another Halloween costume!

Even though they are very fast and good at hiding, that is no reason to underestimate these invertebrates in a fight – the Giant Pacific octopus is super strong! They have eight arms covered with thousands of suction cups. Each suction cup can move and morph to any surface. Due to their strength, they can even leave marks on a human’s skin (some call it an octopus kiss). Octopuses are curious creatures and will check out who and what is around them. Using their arms and suction cups they can taste and recognize different types of food. In aquariums that house octopuses, handlers have special relationships with these animals and the octopuses are even able to recognize the taste of their special human friend.

 

References:

Edited by KC O’Shea

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/giant-pacific-octopus/

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animal-guide/octopus-and-kin/giant-pacific-octopus

http://www.adventureaquarium.com/What-to-do/Aquarium-animals/Giant-Pacific-Octopus.aspx

http://tolweb.org/accessory/Cephalopod_Chromatophore?acc_id=2038

NOAA Photo Library

 

 

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