Monday 10 February 2014

Alive and Inking! Its the Occie in the Rocky

When beginning a Blog about sea creatures, our first port of call is to do a little research and that, inevitably, means a Google search. Imagine my dismay when the top of the rankings for Octopus is the nutritional information of a cooked Octopus.

Now, being based in Cyprus where Octopus is a delicacy (we are often asked in restaurants to "bring a couple up for the grill") I suppose I shouldn't really be surprised but as a Scuba Diver, I prefer my Octopi (yes, Octopi but you can also use octopuses or octopedes as the plural form) alive and inking!

So, what do we know about the Octopus?

The octopus is a cephalopod of the order Octopodo. This literally means 8 feet and the Octopus has... wait for it...8 legs!!! There are over 300 species of Octopus but the most common, unsurprisingly, is the Common Octopus, which can be found anywhere from Coral Reefs to sandy bottoms, shipwrecks and... breeze blocks?

Although they have 3 hearts, the life span of an Octopus is pretty short and reproduction is a death sentence. Males die within months of mating while the females tend to neglect eating during the month it takes for the eggs to hatch and die of starvation.

Octopi have a soft body with no skeleton, which allows them to squeeze into tight spaces. The only hard part of the body is the short crushing beak, which is used for eating crabs, molluscs and worms. Sometimes they crush their prey's shell while other times they drill down into the shell and inject the prey with a paralysing saliva before excavating the soft body.

It is important to note that ALL OCTOPUS ARE VENEMOUS!!! Even that little cute one below!

The only one that is known to be poisonous to humans is the Blue Ringed Octopus.

A predator it is but the Octopus also falls prey to other creatures in the sea. They have a number of defence mechanisms they employ to protect themselves.

  1. Primary defence is their ability to camouflage or hide from their Predators.
  2. Fast escape is the secondary defence in case the predator had already spotted them
  3. Inking. The thick black ink is thought to affect the olfactory organs so predators cannot smell the Octopi
  4. Some Octopi can even detach their arms, like a lizard does its tail, to distract the predator while the Octopus makes its escape. This is species specific and not all octopus can do it.

Clever little Occie

Remember Paul the Psychic Octopus?

Maybe not that clever but scientific experiments have shown that Octopus have shown the capability to store long and short term memories and differentiate between shapes and patterns while enjoying playtime and using tools. In fact, Octopi are so intelligent that the common octopus, as an amendment in 1991, was listed as protected under the Animal Scientific Procedures Act of 1986, which regulated the use of animals for research in the UK.

The biggest Octopus known is the Giant Pacific Octopus, which can weigh up to 15kg with the biggest ever recorded weighing in at a whopping 75kg with an arm span of 4m. Much as I love to see Octopus, that isn't one I'd like to meet on a night dive.

So the next time you are scuba diving and spot that Octopus racing across the seabed, just remember to respect it because he has a memory like JAWS! and Daddy Occie might be right around the corner!

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