It’s World Octopus Day 2017, so we thought we’d do a little storytelling to celebrate.
So there was an octopus in an aquarium in the US. His handler fed the octopus buckets of shrimp then went back to his desk in another room. A little while later, a single shrimp was thrown onto his desk. The octopus had seen that one of the shrimp had gone bad, picked it up, escaped its tank, crossed the hall, found his handler’s office amongst many others, and was mad that he wasn’t getting good quality shrimp.
Let’s think about what that means: it means that the octopus could have escaped at any time but chose not to, that it can recognize one human face amongst the thousands it would have seen at a busy aquarium, that it can navigate a man-made environment and that it gets indignant like a middle-aged lady in a restaurant asking to see the manager when the food is sub-par.
Other octopods have flooded aquariums by dismantling valves, performed juggling tricks, and tap shrimp on their shoulders to trick them. It’s been theorized that they aren’t just smart, but they can make plans, build homes, communicate, use tools and even have a sense of humour. That doesn’t mean that their minds are anything like ours- their brain is distributed between their head and their nine arms, all of which can move independently if severed.
It’s not just their brains that are amazing: the only solid part of their bodies is their beak, so they can fit through anything that their beak can fit through—that means that a 600 pound, 16 foot long giant Pacific octopus can squeeze through a drainpipe. The Blue-Ringed Octopus is crazily poisonous, and if it doesn’t kill you outright its specific poison, tetrodotoxin, can induce ‘zombie-like’ symptoms in humans.
The take home point is: Octopods are cool as hell and we should appreciate them, so happy World Octopus Day 2017!