What does have six arms and two legs and a brain in each one? An octopus! Three-fifths of an octopus’s brain is found in its eight appendages. The largest octopus on record, a giant Pacific octopus, reportedly weighed 600 pounds and was nearly 30 feet wide. Think of all that brain room!
As if the brains-in-their-appendages fact weren’t strange enough, octopuses have additional unique characteristics that make them truly amazing animals. An octopus can change its shape and the color of its skin. A 100-pound octopus can fit through an opening smaller than an orange. The creature can taste through its skin and eat through a parrot-like beak. Studies of the octopus genome have found hundreds of genes active in no other animal and some genes previously thought to be found only in vertebrates such as humans.
Despite coming from a family of mollusks that includes brainless clams, the octopus is also surprisingly intelligent. Octopuses are dexterous enough to open jars with screw–on lids. And experiments performed at the Seattle Aquarium show that octopuses can even recognize people dressed identically.
Amazed yet? If not, these next octopus anecdotes might convince you.
Otto the octopus from Coburg, Germany, made a name for himself when it was discovered he was responsible for shorting out the entire electrical system in the Sea Star Aquarium several days in a row. The six-month-old octopus had climbed the side of his tank and squirted water at the 2,000-watt spotlight that shined into his tank at night.
Otto isn’t the only octopus to express his disapproval or play tricks. One octopus had been given shrimp that didn’t meet its standard of freshness, and it maintained eye contact with its keeper while it stuffed the shrimp down the drain. A foot-long octopus disassembled a valve above her tank, releasing at least 200 gallons of seawater into nearby offices and exhibits.
Whether the octopus is squirting water at spotlights, opening the lid of a jar or expressing its opinion of its dinner, the remarkable, almost alien form of an octopus belies its intelligence.
Did You Know?
The plural of octopus is not octopi. Octopi comes from incorrectly applying Latin rules of pluralization to octopus, which actually comes from the Greek word oktōpous. Although Merriam-Webster notes octopi is acceptable (likely due to common usage), Oxford Dictionaries designates the standard English plural as octopuses or, occasionally, octopodes, the Greek plural form.