Octopus at Long Beach

Article: The Stranger on giant Pacific octopus

I think I prefer this article on octopus (the language is a bit less fruity, for one thing), but giant Pacific octopus are cool enough that even the most offensive writing about them can be interesting. A specimen has been weighed at 71 kilograms, but they usually weigh about 15 kilograms and can have arm spans of over four metres.

One octopus off San Juan Island grabbed a diver’s legs and held him underwater while he struggled, long enough that the diver used up most of the air in his tank and nearly died—as if the octopus knew that divers have only a certain amount of breathing time. Another octopus in Washington waters pounced on a diver, flaring its tentacles in a hunting gesture. The diver fended it off and swam away, but the octopus followed, crawling toward him on the ocean floor, and pounced again. Luckily, this octopus was small—but bizarrely aggressive for its size.

If you’re skeptical about the source of the above information, it’s from a Canadian Field-Naturalist journal article. An interview with Dr Roland Anderson, one of the authors of  the journal paper, sheds further light on the “cold intelligence” of cephalopods (when kept in aquaria, they are notorious escape-artists), and their depressing sex lives (have sex once at the age of 3-5 years, then go mad and die). Anderson says giant Pacific octopus are not as smart as dogs or cats, but they are smarter than the average pet bird.

The article concludes with a discussion on cooking octopus. Kind of hard to contemplate after pondering their intelligence and remarkable physiology…

Read the full article here.

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Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.