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Creature Case Study: Giant Pacific Octopus

Commonly known as the giant Pacific octopus, but scientifically called Enteroctopus dofleini, this is the largest type of octopus. Growing between 10 and 16 feet, the largest one ever recorded was a massive 30 feet long and weighed over 600 pounds. They’re full of love with three hearts, and their intelligence is second-to-none – they have nine brains!
They’re called octopuses but they’re actually mollusks. Each octopus’s shell can be found inside its head as two small plates, with the rest of its body being extremely soft. Similar to squid, octopuses are referred to as cephalopods, which means “head-foot”. They are called this because their feet (arms) are attached to their heads.
Where Can You Find Them?
Mainly found in the northern Pacific Ocean, this fascinating creature tends to live in shallow and coastal waters down to depths of 330 feet. They love having their own dens and they use them as places of shelter. They’re extremely fond of spending time under rocks, where they can cover and easily camouflage themselves.
Not one to stay in a place for too long, the giant octopus never stays in a single den for longer than a month – unless it’s a female with her eggs. Uninhabited dens aren’t left empty for long: they’re quickly reoccupied by other large octopuses who come swooping in for shelter.
Growing Up
Due to its short life span of around four years, the juvenile octopus grows at an extremely fast rate. It turns food into body mass efficiently, allowing its weight to increase by 5% each day.
As soon as the octopus reaches adulthood, it instantly has an urge to mate. Unfortunately, octopuses die shortly after mating. The male octopus dies a few months afterwards, and the female dies after the eggs hatch.
The way an octopus finds its mate is actually quite adorable. The male senses a chemical attractant produced by the female, then searches for her. Once the male has found the female, both octopuses use their senses of sight to determine if there is any true attraction. Males are attracted to larger females, because larger females produce more eggs.
Octopuses are able to reproduce thanks to the male octopus’s modified arm, which is called the hectocotylus. There are two ways for octopuses to reproduce: the male inserting the hectocotylus into the female’s oviduct, or the male taking off its arm and giving it to the female to store in her mantle.
Octopus eggs can incubate from anywhere between two to ten months. This all depends on the water temperature. Once octopuses are born, they’re on their own and begin the cycle all over again.
What’s for Dinner?
Giant Pacific octopuses predominantly hunt at night and feed on an assortment of seafood such as crabs, clams, lobsters, and shrimp. They’re stealthy hunters, using techniques such as camouflage, jet propulsion, and tight grip.
Once the octopus has its prey, it injects compounds that paralyse the fish so that it is easier to digest.
Special Traits
One of the most intelligent creatures in the ocean, the giant Pacific octopus has learned how to open jars, mimic other creatures, and even solve puzzles. They’re not just brainy – they’re beautiful too. Normally a red and pink colour, they’re also masters of disguise. They have special pigment cells that allow their skin to change colours and textures. This lets them blend into their surroundings, which can come in very handy when hiding from predators or preying on smaller fish. Take a look at this first ever captured video of an octopus using its wits and camouflage abilities to escape a shark – it’s brilliant!
They have brains and beauty, so what are you waiting for? Come and see our fascinating giant Pacific octopus Maxwell for yourself! Don’t forget to keep updated with us on Facebook or on Twitter @BlueReefHasting.

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