Did you know October 8th is World Octopus Day? In celebration of these mysterious, sometimes cute and sometimes slightly creepy cephalopods, there are a few things about the octopus that you should probably know—and some of them may shock you.
- There’s more than meets the eye when it comes to their limbs. An octopus actually doesn’t have tentacles—it has arms. While organisms like squid and nautiluses are described as having tentacles, the octopus is simple: it just has eight arms with those trademark suction cups. Speaking of arms, more than 60% of an octopus’ neurons are located in these appendages, not in its head! So, technically, you could say that their arms truly have a mind of their own.
- These invertebrates have three different hearts. While one keeps blood supply flowing to the various organs, two of them have the sole responsibility of pumping blood beyond the gills to the extremities. When an octopus swims, the organ-oriented heart actually stops beating, which explains why the species aren’t the most agile of swimmers. They’re easily exhausted by this feature of their anatomy, and enjoy the alternative of scurrying and crawling along the seafloor instead. Swimming long distances? No thanks!
- Octopus’ ink clouds aren’t just meant to provide cover as they make their escape from predators. Containing high concentrations of tyrosinase, the ink can cause painful irritation to an enemy’s eyes, disorienting its ability to locate the octopus. It has even been said that the chemical composition of cephalopod ink can be so potent that the octopus could die if it were to linger too long in its own ink cloud.
- Just like the sea star, the octopus can grow back lost limbs, too. To date, researchers believe that this awe-inspiring regrowth ability has something to do with an enzyme called AChE, but how and what exactly the protein does is still studied today. What’s even weirder: some research describes that the lost arms of an octopus may continue to try to grab and handle food, even after they’ve been detached from the body.
- You don’t mess with octopus moms. After mating, the ladies of this invertebrate species can lay up to 400,000 eggs, and their level of commitment to guarding their babies is incredible. Fiercely protective, octopus mothers stand by their eggs relentlessly, sometimes even depriving themselves of food to the point of nearing starvation to avoid leaving their side. Now that’s dedicated motherhood if we’ve ever seen it before!
- While Greek philosopher Aristotle thought octopuses to be silly and even ‘stupid’ creatures due to their quirky appearance and behavior, they’re actually thought to be one of the smartest (if not the single most intelligent) of invertebrates. Dr. Julian Finn, a researcher with Australia’s Museum Victoria, almost drowned from laughing when she saw this curious creature literally pick up a coconut shell, scurry along the seafloor with it and plop into it as though it were a shelter. Inquisitive and able to solve puzzles and work their way through difficult mazes, the knowledge these creatures possess is beyond impressive.
- It may be an alarming experience to watch, but an octopus is naturally so dexterous that it can shift and squeeze its entire body through even the most unbelievably small and twisting spaces. In the event they should ever need to escape a potentially dangerous situation, the anatomy of these invertebrates really does save the day.
- No matter what kind of adorable animals you’ve seen, there’s actually a specific cephalopod that may or may not be one of the cutest things you’ll see in your lifetime. Officially known to the science community as Opisthoteuthis californiana, the name Opisthoteuthis adorabilis was originally considered for its namesake… for obvious reasons. We’ll leave you with this: an octopus this cute exists, and that’s reason enough to celebrate World Octopus Day!