One Crafty Critter: the Common Octopus

Ashley Breault | Marketing Intern | Ocean Studies and Communications Student at University of New EnglandOctopus

Back by popular demand, we’ve introduced a new Common Octopus, Octopus vulgaris, into our Creature Feature tank. Some fans may recall how much attention the octopus we had on exhibit in 2012 received. And, there’s good reason for it! Octopuses are one of the most fascinating, smartest animals in the ocean and are among the most unique beings on Earth.

Octopus have followed an unusual evolutionary path and possess a complex genomic structure that rivals that of the most intelligent mammals. These invertebrate cephalopods are capable problem solvers and masters of illusion. Octopuses have been seen using tools, learning through observation, and displaying individual responses to stimuli that could indicate unique personalities.

The Common Octopus is found worldwide in tropic and subtropic waters of the continental shelf in shallow waters off shore to as deep as 200 meters. They are benthic organisms meaning they spend time on the ocean floor crawling, swimming, hunting, and hiding. Common Octopuses only live for about 12-18 months but can lay between 100,000 and 500,000 eggs during their lifetime. They can grow to be 1.3 m long and can weigh up to 10 kg, though usually only reach about 3 kg. All octopuses have eight limbs, three hearts, and one large brain, making them very special ocean animals.

Octopuses are also master escape artists, so when installing the new exhibit at the Center, staff members had to create a special lid for the tank that would guarantee its new occupant would not get out. Octopuses are also good at fitting into small spaces that are fractions of their body size, so the tank has bottles for the octopus to play with and squeeze into.

Our new octopus had a long journey before it found its home in the Creature Feature tank. It was scooped up in a Maine Department of Marine Resources research trawl back in May, was sent to the Center, and stayed in a tank in our back room while it acclimated to its new environment. We make sure all our new animals are thriving in their new conditions before the added stressors of being on public display.

Because octopuses are so intelligent, they get bored easily with confined environments. So, our aquarist will introduce enrichment activities on a regular basis for the octopus explore and challenges for it to find its food (primarily live crabs). Be sure to check back here for updates and follow us on Facebook and YouTube for fun pictures and videos, or come to the Center to observe this truly special animal in person.

Here is a video of our 2012 octopus in action:

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