Welcoming our new cephalopoid overlords
In discussion inspired by the amazing octopus video posted on Metafilter, an amusing and in-depth page about keeping octopuses in aquaria:
Octopuses are escape artists and care must be taken to prevent losing one once you have captured it. Immediately after being caught, Legs discovered a small hole in the seam of my new dive net, went through it, plopped in the water, and disappeared from sight... all in about two seconds! Luckily, at least for me, I was able to relocate her. Once back at the Hall of Justice, (o.k., o.k., hotel room) Legs was placed in a five gallon bucket with its lid slightly ajar to provide an air line to circulate the water. Later, that same morning, a distinctive 'splop' awoke us, somehow penetrating our half asleep brains. That we heard it was no small miracle as we were no doubt still traumatized from waking up at 3:00 A.M. to go look for octopuses. We rushed into the bathroom of the hotel room and there was Legs, obviously upset, scooting around the floor. We managed to catch her and return her to the bucket (yes, the feeling of octopus suckers on your skin is weird at best). Besides keeping the octopus safe, a well sealed collecting bucket and/or octoaquarium helps to allay a loved one's fear that 'that thing is going to crawl out in the middle of the night and suck my brains out through my nose'. [more]
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Yeah, heh. The Oregon Hatfield Marine Science Center (a cool aquarium/museum/neat thing to visit in Newport, Oregon) has a tank in the lobby that usually contains an octopus.
It's a sort of four-foot-tall round barrel-like tank with an open top and steps around the outside edge so kids can stand on it and look down at the octopus, who usually rests in a little wad of flesh and tentacles down in one corner. Sometimes, when they're feeling enthusiastic, they will caaaarefuly extend single tentacles and gently grip the fingers of people who visit the tank. When I was little, I never quite got up the nerve to let it give me a little squeeze, especially once it was pointed out to me that their taste organs are in their suckers. Yum yum!
Unfortunately, about half the time they don't have an actual octopus in the tank, because it's usually only a matter of a few weeks before they figure out how to take out the screws that hold the grill over the drain and escape into the bay.
So, yes, they're creepy-smart.
Posted by: jbrandt on August 9, 2003 12:15 AM
I can't find it, but my brother has written a bit (and lectured me on) how strange it is that octpus are intelligent (and emotional), two traits that you normally only see in highly social animals, not ones as solitary as the octpus.
That always intrigued me, they don't need to be intelligent, intelligences has an associated biological cost, and yet they are. Alien seed stock is only one of the many possible explanations. (not my favorite)
Hmm, looked around a bit more, still can't find the link, but here is his link where he writes a little bit about a an alternate evolutionary path where cephalopods has become aboreal.
Posted by: kellan on August 9, 2003 07:08 PM
Yeah. I am very, very perplexed at how they became so obviously intelligent (most intelligent of all invertebrates?) without being more social.
I have the sneaky suspicion that if they enjoyed talking to each other and hanging out in cafes, we'd be done for.
Posted by: Dan Hon on August 9, 2003 09:22 PM