Three hearts, nine brains, and blue blood may sound like a creature from a sci-fi movie, but all of these things are actually found in the giant Pacific octopus, one of nature’s most intellectual and beautiful species.
Although many people think of them as them as long lived, the giant Pacific octopus’s lifespan is only three to five years. Born as paralarvae, octopuses become prey for many other ocean species, even into adulthood when they have reached their full size of 35 pounds. Predators can include filter feeders like blue whales, as well as other large animals such as seals and sperm whales. Giant Pacific octopuses are even known to feed on their own kind.
With eight arms, each lined with two rows of suckers, these octopuses are extremely strong. The largest suckers are known to hold about 25 pounds each, and considering that the giant Pacific octopus is, on average, only about 35 pounds and 15 feet long, its “sucking power” is remarkable. In addition to being strong, this octopus’s tentacles are also lined with small ridges for holding onto a variety of surfaces; the tentacles are also used to help it “walk” across the ocean floor.The giant Pacific octopus also has the ability to taste by touch, known as chemotaxis. Scientists believe that this ability allows the octopus to search for food by reaching into rocks and crevasses to feel for food rather than seeing it. Since they feed on anything from shrimp, crabs, and fish to small sharks, eels, and even smaller octopuses,chemotaxis can be quite helpful in the search for dinner! Once a giant Pacific octopus has found its food, it eats with its beak and can also use the paralytic toxin excreted through its saliva to overpower its soon-to-be meal.
In addition to using its beak to eat, the octopus uses it to judge whether or not it can fit into a given space. If the beak-the only hard part of its body-fits, the octopus can then squeeze its malleable body into almost any space. When it is not hiding in rocks and crevasses, the octopus uses its mantle to take in water and siphon it through its body, working as a jet to propel it through the ocean. The octopus hunts about six times per day and during these times is most vulnerable to predators.
Another magnificent ability of the giant Pacific octopus is the level of nurturing a female will give her eggs. She will spend the entire length of incubation, generally about six months, guarding her eggs. During this time, she will not eat or leave the eggs-she spends most of her time blowing air on the eggs to oxygenate them, and grooming them of parasites and algae. After reproduction, the parent octopuses go into a stage called senescence, resulting in changes of appearance and most notably behavior. Females will continue to not eat, while males will increasingly move into open water making them more vulnerable to predators in their older, senile state.
Despite this late life deterioration, during its prime, the octopus is an extremely intelligent species. Through numerous scientific experiments, this animal has shown the ability to solve problems and learn from experience. And while we currently do not know for certain what the future holds for this magnificent species, we do know that climate change and warmer ocean temperatures will likely affect it: the giant Pacific octopus needs oxygenated water, which tends to be water with colder temperatures.