image

World Octopus Day: 8 reasons the octopus is nature’s greatest miracle

Everyone’s a sucker for an octopus!

It’s World Octopus Day, so the perfect time to celebrate the eight-tentacled cephalopods that rank among Earth’s most fascinating creatures.

Darlings of modern science, their myriad of talents range from glittering intelligence to regenerating tentacles at will. Here’s why octopuses are one of nature’s greatest miracles, and the most interesting animals in any lab…

1. Octopuses probably have the world’s best camouflage

Octopus Wow GIF by Science Friday - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Masters of disguise that can blend seamlessly into the seafloor, octopuses make the average chameleon look like a bear trying to hide behind a lamp post. Not only can octopuses change colour, they physically texturise their skin to imitate almost any surface, and contort themselves into whatever shape will hide them best.

The mimic octopus takes this talent one step further, aping not just landscapes but other animals. By twisting its tentacles into scales, fins, and flippers, this cunning critter is known to impersonate crabs, jellyfish, and even sea snakes.

2. We have no idea what the correct plural is

Written variously as octopi, octopuses, and octopodes, lexicographers have argued for centuries over the correct way to describe more than one octopus. Merriam-Webster notes that the word comes from “Greek with a stay in New Latin”, and that the three endings each have a different linguistic base.

Octopi favours a Latin suffix, octopodes takes it’s ending from Greek, while octopuses (sometimes written octopusses) is an anglicisation dating from the late 19th century. So they’re all right. Maybe. Depending on who you ask.

3. They’re expert escape artists

Clever, observant, and downright sneaky, these non-human Houdinis have gained a measure of fame on YouTube for their extraordinary ability to escape confinement. They can squeeze through minuscule spaces, learn to open doors by pressing buttons, and even make short land crossings if need be.

4. Octopuses have mastered tool use

If you’ve watched 2001: A Space Odyssey, you’ll know that tool use is a pretty big deal for species development. Humans have mastered it – most of them, anyway – chimpanzees have mastered it, as have dolphins, sea otters, and a couple of birds.

OctoNation® The Largest Octopus Fan Club! GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Wild octopuses have taken to protecting themselves with clam shells, and forging shields out of coconut husks, but with practise, captive creatures have done much more. In 2014, an octopus in an aquarium in New Zealand set a new record by opening a childproof medicine bottle in under a minute.

5. Sex is fatal for octopuses

For octopuses, romance and murder are pretty much the same thing. Males usually last at least a month or two after mating, but for mummy octopuses, a much worse fate is in store. She will obsessively guard her eggs, starving herself in the process, before committing “cellular suicide” when they hatch, organs and tissue physically disassembling until she dies.

In 1977, scientists traced this behaviour to a particular gland between the octopus’s eyes, similar to the pituitary gland in humans. When this gland was removed, female octopuses would immediately abandon their eggs, and live long and apparently happy lives.

(iStock/PA)

6. Octopuses have three hearts, and blue blood

One heart pumps blood through its major organs, and the other two take care of the gills. The organ heart stops beating while the octopus swims, perhaps why most octopuses avoid swimming in favour of scuttling across the sea-floor like a sub-aquatic spider.

Octopus blood is blue because it contains a copper-based protein named hemocyanin, which carries oxygen, much like human equivalent hemoglobin.

Octopus Scariest Shit Ever GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

7. Octopuses are really, really, really old

The oldest known octopus fossil belongs to a species named pohlsepia, and dates back 296 million years – before most of the dinosaurs had even dragged themselves out of the oceans. The fossil resembles a frisbee-shaped splodge, though closer examination can just about distinguish the tell-tale tentacles and ink sack. Today it’s on display at the Field Museum in Chicago.

8. Some of them are actually a little bit cute

Blue Planet Octopus GIF by BBC America - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

We know, they have eight legs and are slimy, but there’s at least a few species of cephalopod out there that could induce a faint ‘aw’. Consider the dumbo octopus, a small grey specimen named for its resemblence to Disney’s big-eared elephant, or the tiny orange octopus so sweet scientists almost named it opisthoteuthis adorabilis.

The following two tabs change content below.

The Press Association

News from the Press Association - the national news agency for the UK and Ireland

Leave a Comment!

Not a member?

You need to be a member to interact with Silversurfers. Joining is free and simple to do. Click the button below to join today!

Click here if you have forgotten your password
viking
11th Oct 2020
0
Thanks for voting!
Prefer eating calamares, by first choice, deep fried.

Community Terms & Conditions

Content standards

These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.

You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.

Contributions must:

be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.

Contributions must not:

contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.

Nurturing a safe environment

Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.

We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!