Deep below the surface, the ocean is brimming with plants and animals yet to be discovered. Remarkably, the species we have already found are full of secrets and continue to surprise us.
Take, for instance, octopuses. These eight-limbed, soft-bodied cephalopods are incredibly smart, are surprisingly similar to humans, and have existed for over 500 million years! Here are three astonishing facts about octopuses that may make you think twice about eating them ever again.
1. Octopuses Have Multiple Brains
Octopuses have uncanny intelligence. They can make tools, solve mazes, and climb out of containers. But did you know that each arm has its own “brain?”
About two-thirds of an octopus’s 500 million neurons are in its arms. This enables each arm to operate independently and to touch and taste. A 2011 experiment proved this theory.
Researchers designed a maze that forced the animal’s arms to leave the water so it could not use its chemical sensors to find food. However, transparent walls allowed the octopus to see the food. Most of the octopuses used in the experiment successfully guided their arms to find the hidden food. This proved that their central brain — which processes visual information — operated the arms.
2. Octopuses Are Sneaky Pranksters
Octopuses are also impressively clever. A New Zealand octopus called Inky escaped from its aquarium down a drainage tube that led to the ocean. Another octopus at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium took apart the plumbing in its tank, significantly damaging the aquarium’s ecologically sensitive floor!
But octopuses aren’t just known for their great escapes. They also can recognize individuals outside of their species. Otto, an octopus in Germany, seemed to intentionally prank aquarium employees. After learning that squirting water at an overhead spotlight turned it off, Otto started turning out the lights and leaving staff in the dark for what appeared to be his own amusement.
Another octopus at the University of Otago in New Zealand took an apparent dislike to a staff member and would squirt her whenever she passed its tank.
In the wild, octopuses use their cleverness to catch prey. An octopus will sneak up on shrimp, tap them with one arm, and then grab the startled crustacean with another. More recently, the clever cephalopods have been found using underwater hot tubs to make their eggs hatch faster!
3. Octopuses Have Complicated Social Lives
Octopuses were once thought to be solitary creatures. However, “Octopolis,” the first known octopus city, was discovered in 2009 and has since redefined the way scientists think about the social behaviors of octopuses. That’s not all, in 2017 another octopus city was found!
The 2017 discovery of another octopus city — dubbed “Octlantis” — further solidified the complex social behaviors of the cephalopods. Around 15 octopuses occupied the city, and scientists witnessed complex behaviors amongst the animals, including evicting one another from dens.
Come Sea These Clever Critters
Octopuses are seriously intelligent, clever, and even social animals. The more we study them, the more surprising secrets octopuses continue to reveal.
Want to learn more? Swim over to one of our three amazing Ripley’s Aquarium locations to get up close and personal with these incredible creatures of the deep!
By Steph Weaver, contributor for Ripleys.com