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The Intelligent Octopus

Submitted by admin on 2010-07-14

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If you've been following the news lately, you have probably seen the name "Paul" mentioned in association with a very special octopus. Paul the 'psychic octopus' has taken the world by storm with his ability to successfully predict every outcome of the Fifa World Cup games that it was asked. Now granted, I for one don't buy it for a second, though to correctly choose the right team on so many successive tries I will definitely go as far as to say it is certainly one lucky octopus!

Anyway, enough about Paul...

Let us take a look at the octopus in general, one of the smartest animals in existence and believed to be the most intelligent of the invertebrates. Personally I feel as though the octopus is one of the marine creatures that get over-looked far too often, despite their advanced intelligence.

This amazing creature can reach weights in excess of 70 kg, but there have been reports of octopuses reaching weights greatly exceeding 200 kg. There is a record of a 270+ kg E. dofleini octopus being caught, which casts doubt onto the idea that the largest octopus is in fact the North Pacific Giant Octopus.

The topic of intelligence is definitely one of the more interesting ones. There is a lot of missing data in regards to the octopuses intelligence, but this is due to the fact that they have an extremely short life expectancy in general and usually only live for around half a year, though some species are known to live up to 5 or so years. They are proven to have both long and short term memory, though as previously stated due to the low life span, the length of their long term memory for example does not give a clear cut answer on their intelligence.

Octopuses have been proven to be able to learn to perform tasks and recognize shapes, some octopuses are even witnessed using objects in aquariums as toys for entertainment. Another display of their intelligence is their ability to use tools, octopuses have been witnessed and even filmed using coconut shells and other objects as protection, making the octopus the only invertebrate to use tools. If that isn't enough for you, they are also known to be able to remove the tops from screw-cap jars.

Due to the octopuses intelligence there are some countries which ban surgery on the octopus without use of anesthesia.

The breeding process of the octopus is equally as interesting as their intelligence, the male dies within months of the mating and the female sacrifices her own life for the successful hatching of her eggs. She will starve herself by remaining in the lair with the eggs and have even been known to consume some of their own tentacles while waiting for the eggs to hatch, though in most cases this is not the cause of her death. The octopus has a genetically programmed death where endocrine secretions are released after the reproduction and cause the death, that is if the weak female isn't first killed by a predator when she eventually exits the lair after the hatchings have completed. This dedicated mother also blows gentle streams over the eggs allowing for oxygen to pass through.

Octopuses are very much defensive creatures and spend most of their time in their lair avoiding other predators, they also have some very unique defense mechanisms. Their primary form of defense is to hide in small, tight places, this is possible due to the lack of skeleton or outer shell. They also have the ability to escape using their speed, their ink, amazing camouflage or even autotomy. The octopus is the largest marine creature to practice autotomy, and only tend to use it in dire situations. The ink in an octopuses defense technique is said to be exceptionally effective against other marine predators which use sense of smell due to effect on olfactory organs.

The next time you're diving and come across an octopus you may want to spend a bit more time acknowledging it's presence, it is a wonderful and intelligent creature which is highly under-rated as a marine creature. Just remember that they also have the ability to bite, using their beak which is located in the center of the body at the bottom. All octopuses are venomous, but only the blue-ringed octopus is deadly to humans- the blue ringed octopus is actually one of the most dangerous marine creatures.


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