Weird and Wonderful Octopus Facts

BY BECKY

Ever stuck for conversation at dinner parties? (No, I don’t get invited to dinner parties either. But imagine if we were…). Well relax, I’ve got you covered. Here are several wonderful facts about the octopus that are guaranteed to start conversations, mainly ‘why do you know this?’, and ‘are you sure you were invited?’, and ‘security!’

N.B. Please respond in the comments to let me know how it goes!

Okay, we’ll start off fairly normal and then get WEIRD.

  • The smallest octopus is the Octopus wolfi, at less than 2.5 cm long and weighing under a gram. <3

  • Octopus blood is blue because it contains a copper-based protein called hemocyanin. Not because they are related to royalty. Supposedly.

  • An octopus has three hearts (greedy), one to pump blood through its organs, and the other two to pump blood through its gills.

  • They prefer to crawl than swim, as when swimming, the heart that delivers blood to the organs stops beating. Therefore swimming = exhausting!

  • An octopus can taste what it touches through its suckers. One word. Ew.

  • These suckers are made of tiny, complex muscles, which can apply enough pressure to tear flesh… ‘But do you even lift bro?’ Well yes. In the case of the giant Pacific octopus, one sucker can lift an object as heavy as 16 kilograms!

Photo by Antonella Lombardi

Photo by Antonella Lombardi

  • Ever struggle to open child-proof lids? Well, a female giant Pacific octopus named Billye can! Widely considered to be the most intelligent of all invertebrates, an octopus brain is formed by 500 million large neurons, compared to the human brain consisting of roughly 100 billion smaller neurons.

  • Octopuses can learn from experience, maintain short- and long-term memory, and have also been observed using tools intelligently.

  • Ever done something on autopilot you can’t remember doing? Multiply that by 8. Around two-thirds of an octopus’s neurons are in its arms, meaning they can react to stimuli without needing instructions from the brain, even when severed from the body…

  • Octopus skin contains the same light-sensitive proteins present in their eyes, so they can sense and respond to light, for example camouflaging themselves, without information from the eyes or brain!

Photo by Vlad Tchompalov

Photo by Vlad Tchompalov

  • If an arm is lost in any way, it can grow back in a few weeks.

  • But they’re not ‘armless… (See what I did there?), all octopuses contain venom. The blue-ringed octopus (less than 20 centimetres long), has enough venom to kill as many as twenty-six humans in minutes!

  • The third arm on the right hand side of a male octopus is also a specialised mating arm, known as the hectocotylus. So be careful when shaking hands!

  • Octopuses are some of the most antisocial and unfriendly animals alive. Even going so far as to eat their partner when mating (except the larger Pacific striped octopus).

  • However, mating requires the male to directly insert the hectocotylus into one of the two siphons on the female's mantle. Pretty intimate.

  • To solve this sexual cannibalism issue, some literally mate at arm's length. Others disguise themselves as another female to get close enough, and some sacrifice their entire mating arm before quickly leaving!

  • However, after mating, they die. The male dies in a couple of months, whilst as the female fasts to protect her eggs, she dies from starvation just before they hatch.

Pretty impressive! Some researchers believe that if octopuses had longer life spans, they, not us, would have been the dominant intelligence on Earth! Anyone else ready to welcome our eight-limbed overlords?

Thumbnail photo by Masaaki Komori