8/17/11

Cephalopods FTW

I know I’m nerdy, but a perfect evening for me would be to have the entire Monterey Bay Aquarium to myself for a night. I would wander from tank to tank to examine and read about every sea creature without a soul to disrupt me.

However, even obnoxious crowds with their smart phones pressed up against the glasses and obstructing the view couldn’t stop me from enjoying the giant octopus tank this past Christmas. Normally, Ms. Octopus is hiding, and you spend your time straining for a glimpse of even a tentacle. She spent my entire visit this past time suctioned right up against the glass, moving back and forth. On a previous visit, the staff told my parents at a dinner about some crazy octopus escapades:

At one point, several fish were going missing from a display. Since there were no predatorial fish in the tank, museum staff decided to set up cameras to find out what was happening. The video footage revealed that the giant octopus was using her suctioned tentacle to sneak out of her tank, scurry across the floor, and jump into the fish display. She would eat her fill, and then return to her own tank.

Octopuses (yes that is the right plural form according to the OED) are a lot smarter than we give them credit. They actually use tools for protection and to eat, which is a sign of intelligence in the animal world. To solve their octopus problem, the Monterey Bay Aquarium installed AstroTurf around her tank to prevent their giant octopus from using her suctions to crawl out. Also, to engage her mind, staff started placing her food around her tank in hamster balls. This acts like a puzzle for the octopus and keeps her mind occupied from plotting other escape plans.

Today, I found this on Science Friday:

Bucket List: Touch a live octopus

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