Monday, July 12, 2010

Common Octopus

Image from New York Daily News
The 2010 World Cup ended yesterday, and while the world is abuzz with Spain's first win, there has also been a great deal of talk about Paul. Who is Paul? Paul is the Common Octopus "Oracle" who correctly picked the outcomes of all 7 of Germany's games, plus the World Cup Final. Treats were placed in boxes adorned with national flags. The treat eaten first was the winning team. Paul went 8 for 8. (Though he did make some blunders during the 2008 Euro) Anyway, Paul is retiring now, but in celebration of his strange cephalopod superpowers, enjoy some facts on the Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris)!

Common Octopuses (Octopi is actually an incorrect plural term) are found in temperate and tropical coastal waters across a great deal of the planet. They live at depths shallower than 500 feet. Octopuses are carnivorous, and are active predators during the daytime. They feed primarily on crustaceans and mollusks, and they will actually stockpile their food to eat at a later time. They hunt by a variety of methods, including stalking, luring, and simply groping around for their prey. After consuming a meal, they will leave the shell in a heap known as a midden pile. These piles help scientists to study not only what Octopuses eat, but also what kinda of organisms live in the area.

Image from Animal Picture Archive
Octopuses have some pretty amazing senses. They have the largest brains of any invertebrate and have both long and short term memories. They are also capable of some pretty advanced problem solving. The Common Octopus has wonderful eyesight, and they are able to distinguish between other creatures and objects, both by sight and by touch.they also have extremely flexible bodies, and can squeeze through spaces that are only a fraction of their overall body size.

Common Octopuses also have an amazing array of defense mechanisms. They are able to change both the color, and the texture of their skin. This allows them to hide virtually in plain sight. Skin color is also able to reflect the mood of the Octopus. Another defense they have is their ink. If the camouflage fails, the Octopus will shoot a jet of ink at its attacker, which disorients them and gives the Octopus time to escape. This ink also contains a substance that affects the attackers' sense of smell, further allowing the Octopus to flee in safety.

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