Posts Tagged 'octopus'

A Blue View: Otherworldly Octopuses

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

October 9: 2013 – Otherworldly Octopuses

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss some of ocean’s
most intelligent and amazing creatures!

With eight arms, a bulbous head, thousands of suckers, a tongue covered in teeth, and three hearts, the octopus is like something out of a science fiction movie. And the more you know about these fascinating creatures, the stranger they seem.

They can change body color, texture, and shape to blend in with their surroundings. Even large octopuses can fit through seemingly impossibly small spaces. They can open jars and dismantle objects. Their suckers can actually taste and feel. Some species glow, while others are transparent. Add powerful jaws with a venomous bite and the ability to regenerate limbs, and this is a creature with truly astounding capabilities.

national aquarium giant pacific octopus

Part of the cephalopod family, which also includes cuttlefish and squid, octopuses can range in size, from the octopus wolfi at half an inch and only a few ounces to the giant Pacific octopus, averaging 16 feet across and 110 pounds.

Solitary creatures, most octopus species live alone in dens. Females are known to eat their mates, and females often die after laying and caring for one clutch of eggs.

Most of us don’t perceive mollusks as intelligent creatures, but the octopus isn’t a mindless invertebrate – far from it. Octopuses are surprisingly smart, with one report claiming that their intelligence is on par with that of a domestic cat. The nervous system includes a central brain and a large ganglion at the base of each arm that controls movement. These eight arms operate both independently of one another and together to accomplish tasks. And no doubt about it, octopuses are built to survive.

Should an octopus lose one of its arms, due perhaps to a near-miss by a predator like a shark or seal, the octopus immediately starts regenerating the lost limb, somewhat like a starfish that loses an arm or a lizard that loses a tail. Because octopuses are so effective at this, scientists are studying them to learn the secrets of regrowth in hopes of applying those findings to humans, particularly in regards to tissue regeneration.

Octopuses also avoid predators through camouflage. Masters of disguise, they can change color, texture, and body shape to hide from predators, instantaneously blending in with almost any background. In another protective strategy, octopuses can release ink that obscures an attacker’s view and dulls its sense of smell, allowing a hasty escape. And because it they have no bones, this invertebrates can fit into incredibly small spaces and crevices, making the octopus extremely adept at staying out of harm’s way.

Perhaps one of the most interesting and amazing tactics in all of the animal kingdom belongs to the aptly named “vampire” squid, which is in fact an octopus. This wily deep sea dweller can bite off the end of one of its bioluminescent arms, which then floats away, luring a potential predator with its light and allowing an escape.

Blog-Header-JohnRacanelli

Happy World Octopus Day!

Did you know? Today is (the 10th annual) World Octopus Day!

Octopuses (yes, THAT is the correct plural of octopus) are cephalopods – a class name derived from the Greek word cephalopoda, meaning “head-feet.” These incredibly unique animals are characterized by their bilateral symmetry, a body shape that primarily includes a large head and set of arms or tentacles.

Out of the 800 identified living species of cephalopods, 300 of those species are octopuses! Here at the Aquarium, we have a giant Pacific octopus on exhibit. We spoke to Aquarist Katie Webster about what it’s like to care for it:

[youtube http://youtu.be/RIJ8BIZYIEE]

Octopuses are among the most intelligent species in the animal kingdom. In total, an octopus has 500 million neurons, located in both its brain and throughout its arms. In addition to grabbing onto prey and climbing rocky underwater structures, an octopus uses its suckers to taste and sense.

Check out this awesome infographic to learn even more about these incredible animals: 

national aquarium octopus infographic

Animal Updates – August 30

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

Our Giant Pacific Octopus exhibit is back up! 

After weeks of necessary habitat maintenance, our giant Pacific octopus is back on exhibit!

national aquarium giant pacific octopus

Did you know? Octopuses are mollusks, related to squid, clams, and snails. Like squid, they are cephalopods, meaning ‘head-foot’, so named because the feet (arms) are attached to the head.

They’re highly-intelligent animals. To encourage cognitive thinking, we offer our octopus enrichment toys. Watch this video of an octopus using its 1,800 suction cups to dismantle a Mr. Potato Head:

[youtube http://youtu.be/rlQM1rFwzPw]

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Animal Update – February 8

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

AnimalUpdated_DC

Baby Giant Pacific Octopus!

We have a new giant Pacific octopus on exhibit! Currently the size of a softball, this species can grow to weigh up to 90 lbs! In fact, they are the largest species of octopus in the world.

baby octopus

Found in the coastal regions of the North Pacific, the giant Pacific octopus is highly intelligent and adaptable, making them a hard catch for predators.

These masters of camouflage can quickly change the color and texture of their skin to match the background. By rapidly drawing water into the mantle and expelling it through the tube-like siphon, they can jet themselves backward, away from danger.

Once this juvenile matures a bit, our staff will begin regular enrichment exercises to encourage cognitive thinking.

octopus enrichment

Aquarist Morgan Denney facilitating an enrichment with our giant Pacific octopus in Baltimore!

One exercise involves giving the octopus a container with food inside. The octopus opens the container quickly, using more than 1,800 suction cups that help it locate and taste the item inside.

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

Super FISH Bowl: Our Fantasy Team Line-Up

As the competition between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers heats up in anticipation of Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII, the National Aquarium, Baltimore and the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco are enlisting the help of their aquatic animals to take their own friendly rivalry off the green and into the blue in the Super FISH Bowl!

You can’t have a #SuperFISHBowl without a strong team! As part of our fun wager, each organization is building their ultimate fantasy animal line-up!

Here’s who we’ve got out on the field:

Kicker – Blue Crab
Cornerback – Golden Lion Tamarins
Defensive Line – Sand Tiger Sharks
Fullback – Dolphins
Linebacker – Porcupine Fish
Quarterback – Blue Hyacinth Macaw (Margaret)
Center – Snapping Turtle
Wide Receiver – Tarpon
Tight End – Roughtail Ray
Coach – Octopus (Poulpe)
Referees – Banggai Cardinalfish
Cheerleader – Green Sea Turtle (Calypso)

Tell us your favorite player & they could be our fan-voted MVP!

Lilly Pulitzer limited-edition signature National Aquarium scarf

We’re excited to announce that renowned designer Lilly Pulitzer has designed a signature scarf to celebrate the Aquarium’s 30th anniversary!

Lilly Pulitzer Aquarium Scarf

The silk and cashmere scarf, in Lilly’s playful hues of aqua blue and coral pink, features several of the Aquarium’s residents—the intelligent octopus, the endangered sea turtle, and the colorful sea stars—as well as a secret message hidden in the print!

Signature Design Print

The best part? Every scarf purchase makes a generous donation to the National Aquarium. Only 500 scarves were made, and are now available for purchase in the Aquarium’s gift shop, a few local Lilly shops, or via this order form, so get yours before they’re gone forever!

And make sure to check out the Lilly Pulitzer blog to see MARP’s Jenn Dittmar featured in Lilly’s Guest House!

The life of an octopus

Paul the Octopus, who captivated the world this summer with his accurate World Cup predictions, passed away last week at the age of 2 1/2. He was a resident of the Sea Life Aquarium in Germany. They reported that their beloved octopus died of natural causes. If you don’t know anything about the life of an octopus, you must be wondering why he died of natural causes at just 2 1/2.

Truth be told, the life span of a giant Pacific octopus is relatively short for such a large animal. They typically live to only 3 to 5 years of age, and don’t live to see their offspring.

Octopuses only reproduce once, and sadly, this event comes near the end of their life. After mating, the females lays up to 100,000 (often fewer) eggs and then stops eating. She remains with the eggs to protect them until they hatch, then she dies.  The male octopus also dies shortly after mating, but does not assist in protecting the eggs.

In such a short time, however, they grow an astonishing amount!  When an octopus hatches it is almost microscopic.  The young float in the water column. As plankton, they consume food and grow very quickly.  Within their first year they can grow to several pounds or more.  The size of a mature octopus often varies with each individual, but the largest recorded giant Pacific octopus weighed in at 156 pounds!

At the National Aquarium, we currently have two giant Pacific octopuses, Arya (approximately 35-pound female on exhibit) and Kraken (smaller, approximately 10-15-pound male in backup).  Arya came to us about a year ago and weighed just 5 pounds when she arrived!  She laid eggs in June and has exhibited a change in behavior consistent with senescence in females, although she is still eating off and on.  Kraken was also only about 5 pounds when he arrived in the spring.  His age is uncertain, as an octopus’s size doesn’t necessarily reflect its age.

Even though the life of an octopus is short, we do our best to keep them stimulated while they live here at the Aquarium. Did you know that their brain capacity is said to be similar to or somewhat more than that of a dog?! Each day aquarists conduct enrichment exercises to encourage cognitive thinking and natural hunting behaviors. Our octopuses are given a variety of items such as baby or dog toys, and puzzles like closed jars with food inside to keep them occupied.  Check out this video of  an octopus in action!


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