A couple of weekends ago, I visited the Ucluelet Mini Aquarium. It’s just a tiny little building, but inside they have hundreds and hundreds of sea life specimens, and all of them found locally. They even had a bunch of tanks where we could touch and pick up starfish, sea cucumbers, and the like. But my favorite part of all was in a tank at the very back – a young Giant Pacific Octopus.
Now, I do love sea creatures, but I can’t say that I’ve ever been much of an octopus aficionado specifically. But as we stood there, staring at this red blob with suction cups, an aquarium employee came over and started telling us all these fantastic things, and I have to say that toward the octopus, I have a newfound sense of freaking awesome!
Here is what I learned…
1. Octopuses are strong! An octopus’ tentacles, obviously, are covered in a bunch of “suction cups”, and each one can hold about two pounds. Even though it cant use all of them at once, this makes even a small octopus, like the one at the aquarium, incredibly strong.
2. Octopuses eat like this: once a crustacean is caught, the octopus drills a tiny hole through the shell, then injects a venom into its prey that causes its body to liquefy. Then it slowly sucks the liquefied body through the tiny hole. Eww.
3. Octopuses are really squishy. As long as its beak (the only hard part of its body) can fit, the octopus can fit there. Think: a full grown octopus could potentially squash itself through something as small as a Pringles can! The staff at the aquarium had to make sure that the lid to the octopus’ tank was locked tight every night, because it could lift off the lid and squeeze its way through the crack at the bottom of the door. A freaking octopus could squeeze its way through a 1.5 inch crack under the door!
4. Octopuses are very androgynous. The only way to tell male from female is to look at the third tentacle from the right; on a male, the end of this tentacle has no suctions because that’s what he uses to get down with the lady octopuses.
5. Octopuses can recognize faces. Yup, it’s true, so be careful not to anger one; he will remember who you are…
6. Octopus ladies only lay eggs at the end of their lives. She lays her eggs in a cave, then swims as far away from them as possible. She knows that predators will be attracted to her corpse and consequently, to her babies. Conversely, she will sometimes remain in the cave, so her children will have something to eat when they hatch. Yuck.
7. Octopuses are bloody brilliant. The Giant Pacific lives an average of three and a half years, and in that time, reaches the intelligence level and have the problem solving abilities of a six year old child.
8. Octopuses have three hearts.
9. Octopuses are masters of disguise. They have the ability to change the color and texture of their skin, and do this both to display emotion, as well as to hide from predators. Check this out:
While we were there, the octopus at the aquarium even flashed between red and white for us, and changed its skin texture from smooth to bumpy!