I am a cephalopod (meaning “head-foot”), and am related to squid and cuttlefish. We get our name because our arms are connected directly to our head (contrary to popular belief, my eight appendages are called “arms”, not “tentacles”). I am the largest and longest-living of all octopus species, which I like to think makes me the king of the octopuses! On average, I am about 12 feet in length and weigh more than 50 pounds.
We reproduce towards the end of our lives, where a female chooses a large male to mate with. After mating, a female can store the male’s sperm for up to several months before deciding to fertilize and lay her eggs. Females will then lay tens of thousands of eggs and keep them safe in a small den. The female octopus spends six to seven months taking care of her eggs. All of which time, she’s constantly sitting on top of her clutch with no food. And, after the eggs hatch—the female octopus dies. Talk about motherly dedication! A giant Pacific octopus mother gives all she has to her babies, including her own life.
Did You Know?
Don’t freak out, but I am venomous! Although some other cephalopods are notorious for their dangerous bites (blue ringed octopus, anyone?), it turns out all octopuses and cuttlefish are venomous. I inject the venom into my prey with my sharp beak. If you ever see octopus on the menu, though, don’t worry–I’m venomous, not poisonous, meaning my venom is injected, not ingested.
Octopuses are incredibly smart, and I am no exception. I can learn to solve mazes, open jars, recognize people’s faces and even escape enclosures. Octopuses are the only invertebrates shown to exhibit play behavior, and sometimes those of us in captivity will pass the time by playing with toys.
Unlike others in the mollusk family (like snails and oysters), I don’t have a hard, external shell to protect me from predators. So, I have to get creative. Like other octopuses, I have a series of cells called chromatophores that allow me to change colors based on my surroundings, allowing me to camouflage myself. When I’m not trying to hide, I am reddish-brown in color. I can also squeeze myself into tiny nooks and crannies to hide from predators—meaning you could swim by and not even notice me! One of my main predators is humans, and I’m caught to use on menus and as bait to catch other fish. Our populations are largely unknown—more science is needed to understand population health and the risks of changing environmental conditions to octopus.
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