In an Octopus’s Garden by the Sea

It’s STEM Tuesday.  Yay!

Let’s get jiggy with Octopuses.  Yes, that’s right.  Octopuses, not octopi.  (Octopus comes from Greek, not Latin, so no pluralizing like we came from Italy.  Whoops!  We’re talking Science today, not language.  Onward.)  

I subscribe to the “Stuff You Should Know” podcast.  I love these guys.  Besides, they completely entertained three grandchildren on a five-hour road-trip.  Not the video, the podcast.  That’s right; no visual stimulation, just their voices. Here’s a link to their “Octopus, Octopi, Octopod, Octopuses” podcast.  Super-cool.  Trust me, it’s great.

Octopuses are pretty amazing: tricky, smart, techy, and Pinterest worthy.

Octopuses are smart as the dickens. They can solve puzzles, recognize human faces, navigate mazes, and even open childproof bottles. One female even invented a game of bouncy ball, when she realized plastic bottles aren’t edible. Octopuses can also do impressions of the sea creatures. Instead of hiding or trying to escape a predator, an octopus can shape-shift to look and act like venomous creatures like flatfish, spiky lion fish, jellyfish, and sea snakes. From the magazine Mental Floss, I got this quote:

In his 1973 book Octopus and Squid: The Soft Intelligence, by Jacques Cousteau: “our friend…brought an octopus home and put in an aquarium, which he then covered with a heavy lid.  A short time later, the aquarium was empty…the octopus [was found]  going through the library, book by book, turning the pages with its arms.:

Octopuses are the Houdini of the sea. They are entirely squishy. Well,except for their beak and brain. And they can become virtually invisible.  A 100-pound giant Pacific octopus can squeeze through a hole the size of a cherry tomato. They can undo latches, untie knots, and open locks.  Yes, it is very hard to keep them in a cage.

In less than 0.3 seconds, an octopus can change colors, texture, and shape. They can mimic algae covering rocks, a sandy seabed or fronds of kept. They can also make a life-size sell-portrait make from a cloud of their ink and mucus to send an enemy in the wrong direction.  

Here’s a Short about the color changing.  I think you’ll see why I’m such a fan of these guys; Just talking to each other about interesting stuff.

Octopuses are Innovative SAHMs.  Octopuses build a new home every few days.  They often hide in a rock crevice, an old seashell, the hull of a shipwreck, or a stubby brown bottle.  It cleans out debris and barricades the entrance.  Every morning the octopus sweeps its home clean.  A female will even decorate her home with strings of eggs forming a translucent curtain hanging from the ceiling.

Octopuses are loners, so they’ve come up with some creative sex-tricks.  Sure they use the more traditional doggy-style. Since the males’ sex organ is at then end of one arm, they often use the “distance position.” No point in cleaning up after hubster, he can live next door and just stretch his sex-arm into her house for a quickie.

Octopuses can be one mother of an aggressor. Think those squishy squid-like creatures are floating around in a zen state?  They just look peaceful.  Octopuses can make mincemeat out of sharks, capturing them in their arms and squeezing them to death.  They can rip the stinging tentacles off a Portuguese man-o-war and swing  them around like a weapon. And if a tasty clam refuses to open its shell, look out.  The Octopus will drill a hole with its tongue-line ribbon called a radula and insert a neurotoxin. Voila, lunch is served.

They can run around on shore. What?  Yup, some shallow-water species come ashore to hunt. Some even dine on seagulls.  Again from Mental Floss

Alex Warburton, had the tricky task of scooping octopuses out of their tanks….some octopuses would trampoline off the net, leap to the floor, and take off zig-zagging around the lab.  It’s “like chasing a cat,” Warburton told Orion magazine.”

La Pieuvre (The Octopus)
La Pieuvre (The Octopus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


And what about Mad Men, Peggy Olson and The Fisherman’s Wife?  What serendipity that I planned to write about Octopuses the same week as this delightful episode.