Octopuses are some of the coolest and smartest critters in the ocean. Although they’ve been studied for years, cephalopod life cycles and behaviors continue to surprise researchers.
For example, a group of scientists recently came across an astounding find: thousands of octopuses huddled together near the base of an extinct underwater volcano. What were they doing? Taking advantage of a natural hot tub!
Octopus Hot Tubs Draw Crowds
The hot tub-loving critters in question were all female pearl octopuses, and they numbered around 6,000. Besides species and gender, they had something else in common — clutches of eggs to protect. After further research, scientists came to a fascinating conclusion.
The eggs next to the extinct volcano hatched faster than those of their colder-water peers. Janet Voight of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago explains, “There are clear advantages of basically sitting in this natural hot tub.”
What do these advantages include? By hatching earlier, baby octopuses avoid many pre-hatch risks, like getting eaten by shrimp, snails, and various other predators. In fact, octopus moms who gather in the extinct volcano’s warmer water cut their egg-hatching times by more than half!
An Octopus’s Garden in the Shade
Scientists have named the hot tub gathering of cephalopod moms an “octopus garden.” (Ringo Starr was onto something!)
They recorded some unique behaviors at the site. These behaviors included thousands of pearly octopuses, arms raised and transitioning between turning their eggs and pushing away potential predators.
How common are such octopus gardens? That’s a question researchers continue to ponder. Mike Vecchione of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History thinks they “may be widespread and really important in the deep sea, and we just previously knew very little about them. There’s still so much to discover in the deep sea.”
Cool Octopus Facts
Vecchione couldn’t be more correct — scientists still have much to learn about the ocean and creatures that call it home, like octopuses. But what we do know is extremely cool. Here are just a few of our favorite weird octopus facts!
Octopuses have three hearts! Two pump blood into the octopus’s gills, while the third circulates blood to its organs. Remarkably, this third heart automatically stops when the octopus swims. (Maybe that’s why they prefer crawling?)
Octopuses have blue blood! Oh, and the blood flowing through their veins? It’s blue, thanks to a pigment known as hemocyanin.
Octopuses are masters of camouflage! They can change their skin color and texture in a literal second. (Talk about giving chameleons a run for their money!)
Octopuses don’t have eight arms! They actually have six arms and two legs, all of which have literal minds of their own. About two-thirds of the neurons in an octopus’s body are found in their arms instead of their brains!
Octopus brains are shaped like donuts! The brain encircles the creature’s esophagus. This means, every time an octopus swallows, its food passes through its brain! Speaking of those brains, some scientists now believe octopuses can experience nightmares while sleeping.
Octopuses have built cities! “Octopolis,” the first known octopus city, was discovered in 2009, and others have been found since, like “Octlantis” off the coast of Eastern Australia. Octopuses living in these cities have complex social behaviors and will even evict unruly tenants!
Scientists have discovered ‘Octlantis’ pic.twitter.com/1xiTAQ4U7G
— Insider Business (@BusinessInsider) December 8, 2018
Sea for Yourself!
And that’s just scratching the surface when it comes to cool cephalopod facts! Want to learn more about some of the coolest octopuses on the planet or their other ocean companions? 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 Engrid Barnett, contributor for Ripleys.com