Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mollusc Week: Giant Octopus + Octopus Wonders.

In the interests of givig xhitons and their squishy brethren their due, this blog proudly presents Mollusc Week! Yes, molluscs are weird, wonderful creatures that inhabit most types of water. They have soft bodies and have shells, not exoskeletons: (Fun fact: If you get a whole squid at a restaurant near a port, they might leave the small, iridescent, internal shell in for you.) Of course, not all of them have apparent shells, like today's number:

The Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) is exactly what it says on the can: a big octopus found in the Pacific Ocean. These particular octopuses prefer temperate waters. Like all octopuses, it is carnivorous, using a sharp beak to snatch and tear fish. The main distinguishing trait of these octopuses is their odd skin, which looks almost like leaves.

So, how giant is giant? The legs on a giant octopus can get 30 feet (9.1 meters) across. They could easily tentacle rape somebody with their arms (which is the correct term), but are by no means the krakens that people love marketing. They are, however, still impressive enough to be among the most filmed octopuses in the world. They never reach the massive sizes of giant squids...as far as we know.

More importantly, however, octopuses (in general)  are the magicians of the sea creature world. They can disappear into the background, escape from almost any prison that isn't entirely enclosed, and, of course, use the classic ink vanishing act. They can also solve mazes and open jars. A lot of octopus feats are better witnessed than described; how does that amazing brain fit through a tiny hole?!

Probably not a giant. Still impressive.

The only limit to an octopus's awesomeness is how big its beak is. In general, they are intelligent creatures who manage to do things that we thought only vertebrates could do. Yeah, chimps suddenly look really boring by comparison, don't they?

By the way, in case you were curious, octopuses make horrible pets. They are very sensitive to their environments, making them strongly affected by climate change and pollution. Also, they are escape artists. Please leave them either in the ocean or to real aquarium experts. 

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