Octopuses Throw & Target Things At One Another

I’m Sid, a common Sydney octopus. I live off Australia in an area nicknamed “Octopolis” by humans.

A whole bunch of us octopuses live in this sandy area. There’s this one octopus, let’s call him “George,” who tries to mate with me.

One day he was particularly persistent. My eggs weren’t ready for fertilizing that day, so I resisted his advances. But he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer.

So I threw silt at him using a stream of water from my siphon. My siphon is a wondrous contraption—it helps me move when I shoot a jet of water out of it, helps me excavate my den, get rid of waste (my own and food debris) and also get rid of unwanted males!

I shot water out of my siphon and aimed it towards the silt beneath me and voila! A sand storm was directed towards George.

But he wasn’t getting the picture. I sent more silt flying towards him once the current took away my first try.

I’ve got to hand it to him, he ducked at least four times and was successful at dodging on two. I hurled silt ten times and hit him on 5 occasions. After the tenth time, he finally got that I wasn’t interested.

George threw a shell out into the ocean in frustration. We octopuses don’t retaliate (shh! at least the humans haven’t seen us do that!).

But here’s the exciting news about octopuses throwing things and targeting one another. Only a “handful” of other species, including chimpanzees, actually target individuals of the same species.

Not bad company for a mere invertebrate, huh? We only make up 97% of all animals…

For more information see the New Scientist’s “Female Octopuses throw things at males that are harassing them”

Also see “10 Interesting Octopus Facts”

My Octopus Teacher Review by Ollie the Octopus

my octopus teacher review
My Octopus Teacher review by Ollie the Octopus

My Octopus Teacher Review

Hello my name is Ollie the Octopus. Unlike my counterpart featured in the Netflix documentary “My Octopus Teacher,” I have a name. I’m male though, and she was female—she laid eggs at the end of her life. While I wouldn’t have minded mating with her, we live halfway around the world from each other—her off of the South Africa coast, and me off of the California coast off of the USA.

We’re not villains!

So what does an octopus think of a documentary? Well, I’ve never watched TV, so I can only speak through my human translator (or is she an octopus translator?). I’m just glad we octopuses are not just thought of as villains (see Ursula in the Little Mermaid), food (octopus bowls in Japanese restaurants) or as slimy, disgusting creatures.

Octopuses are clever and intelligent!

We are now seen as the clever, intelligent and incredible creatures that we are, woo hoo! From what I’m told, some humans were horrified or disappointed that Craig Foster didn’t try and save his octopus teacher from a shark attack. He didn’t want to mess with nature.

Messing with nature?

But he did. He permanently scared her from one den at the beginning of their “friendship,” and continually put her life in possible danger when interacting with her. And especially when taking her to the surface when he took a much-needed breath of fresh air, he was exposing her to possible predators.

Changing natural behaviors?

But that she decided to interact with Craig at all was her decision. She could have stayed hidden and there would have been no documentary. Having her life permanently captured digitally was well worth any risk to her life. Did it change any of her natural behaviors? It did, but the time Craig spent with her was small in comparison to the time she spent being “wild.”

Octopuses love enrichment!

You wouldn’t have empathy for me otherwise, nor would you like to hear about how octopuses in captivity solve puzzles and open jars and boxes for food. Or how we “play” with objects in our tank (placing an object in the stream of water in our tank over and over).

We’re, um, cannibals

But you probably didn’t know that we can be cannibals, which I think makes octopus farming a tricky and controversial venture. Not to mention how it complicates the mating game!

We’re camouflaging machines!

We camouflage out of instinct—we’re color blind—but use our wits not to get eaten. We can change color, texture and shape. After all, we’re just a boneless protein snack to any mouth larger than us!

Unexplored ocean

We octopuses are often compared to alien beings. Why humans continue to search for life in space when 95% of the ocean is unexplored by humans or ROV’s (remotely operated vehicles) is beyond me. Octopuses have been eaten forever, yet true empathy for us took until this documentary. What other wonders do the oceans hold for humans?

You can help!

So what can you do for the ocean? Well, less than one digit % of all donations to nonprofits go to ocean conservation charities. Check Charity Navigator for a reputable nonprofit to donate to. A good one is Craig Foster’s nonprofit Sea Change Project and the Sea Save Foundation (My human volunteered there!)

Thanks for reading My Octopus Teacher review. Do you have any questions for me? I’ll answer them in any future blog posts.

Congratulations to My Octopus Teacher for winning many international awards, including the BAFTA for best documentary. Good luck at the Academy Awards!

Also see: Ollie the Octopus and the Definition of Ocean Acidification

Interview-Hannah Rosen & Humboldt Squid Communication

Humboldt squid & National Geographic crittercam width=
Crittercam being put on Humboldt Squid photo by:Joel Hollander

On April 18, 2015 I attended MARINE’s (Monterey Area Research Institutions’ Network for Education) Ocean Colloquium. There, among many interesting speakers, I heard Hannah Rosen speak about her research on Humboldt Squid communication at Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University. I was fascinated and I later asked if I could interview her for my blog. The following interview was conducted by e-mail:
1. Tell me a little about yourself and how you came to be at Hopkins Marine Station.
Hannah Rosen (HR) : I grew up in Pennsylvania, but when I was 11 I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with my family. I thought it was pretty much the most amazing place I’d ever been in my life, but never imagined I would someday be working right next door. I went to college at Bucknell University and studied animal behavior. I became fascinated with cephalopods and how smart they are. So I decided to go to graduate school and do research on cephalopod behavior. That’s how I found Dr. Gilly at HMS and decided to do research on squid chromatophores and their use in Humboldt Squid.

2. How did you become interested in studying squid?
HR: I first became interested in octopus after reading about their incredible ability to learn and even play. However, when I did more reading I realized that while there was a lot of research done on octopus and cuttlefish, there almost none done on squid because of how difficult they are to study. I guess I sort of saw this as a challenge and that made me want to be the one to work on this research.

3. How do squid communicate?
HR: Squid communicate mostly through body patterns on their skin. Different species have different colors of the expandable pigments sacs called chromatophores, which they can use like pixels on a screen to create different patterns. They often use these patterns in concert with different body and arm positions, and with light reflecting cells in their skin called iridophores.

4. Why did you study Humboldt squid instead of other cephalopods or squids?
HR: I was interested in Humboldt squid partly because of the interesting dynamic they have within their schools. They are always found in groups, but we don’t know if these groups are static or if members come and go. There is some evidence they hunt together, but they are also very cannibalistic. All these complexities made me think they must have a way to communicate with each other to maintain whatever sort of order that seems to exist. They are also large enough to strap video cameras onto, which makes it a little easier to study them than some other squid.

5. How did you get camera footage of Humboldt squid displaying?
HR: We got that footage using National Geographic’s Crittercam, an animal-borne video package that we put on squid that were caught using a squid jig and hand line. The squid were able to swim freely with the camera, which automatically detached after a few hours and floated to the surface, where we were able to recover it and look at the footage.

6. What do you hope to learn (i.e. what your dissertation is about)?
HR: I’m hoping to learn something about how Humboldt squid use their chromatophores, both for communication and camouflage. I am also comparing some of the anatomy of the chromatophores in Humboldt squid to that in California market squid to see if some of the differences in how they use their chromatophores translate into physical differences as well.

7. Have you come across any interesting facts about squid during your studies?
HR: I have learned lots of interesting facts about squid! Some things I have learned that aren’t about my particular research is that squid have blue blood instead of red because they use copper instead of iron to transport oxygen. Also, the have three, one chambered hearts instead of one, many chambered heart.

Giant Squid Myths–True or False?

First giant squid filmed in deep sea: photo by Edie Widder/Discovery Channel

1. The eyes of the Giant Squid Architeuthis dux are the size of dinner plates.

*TRUE* Giant Squid eyes are the largest in the animal kingdom.

2. The Giant Squid have tentacles 60 feet long.

*FALSE* The longest measured dead Giant Squid was 43 feet (13 meters) long.

3. Giant Squid are the Kraken of legend that attacked ships and sailors.

*TRUE* to a certain degree, as washed up specimens of Giant Squid have fascinated humans for 2,000 years. They are known to “attack” boats by sticking their tentacles on them, but they have never attacked any humans!

4. Giant Squid attack Sperm Whales.

*TRUE* but probably only in defense. Sperm Whales have been found with sucker disk marks on their skin which proves that these two species tussle. Sperm Whales probably win most battles, as Giant Squid beaks (their only hard part) have been found in their stomachs.

5. Captain Nemo’s encounter with a Giant Squid in Jules Verne’s 1870 novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, was inspired by a true event.

*TRUE* in 1861, a French Naval ship encountered a Giant Squid, but Verne’s imagination took over from there!

6. Giant Squid have never been filmed in their natural environment underwater.

*FALSE* in 2012 a Giant Squid was filmed in the Pacific Ocean. Here’s the Discovery Channel’s coverage of a live Giant Squid.

7. A Giant Squid’s beak resembles that of a Parrot.

*TRUE* only a Giant Squid’s beak is made of chitin, which is what the exoskeleton of many insects is made of.

8. When a Giant Squid swallows its food, the food goes past its brain.

*TRUE* A Giant Squid’s esophagus (feeding tube that reaches the stomach) goes past its brain!

9. A Giant Squid’s feeding tentacles are 2x its body length.

*TRUE* A Giant Squid has 8 arms and two long feeding tentacles with clubs at the end.

10. Giant Squid eat other Giant Squid.

*TRUE* Giant Squid are cannibals!

For more information visit Giant Squid Legends

Smithsonian page on Giant Squid

10 Awesome Cuttlefish Facts

pharaoh cuttlefish, cuttlefish facts
Pharaoh Cuttlefish (photo by Cherilyn Chin)

10 Awesome Cuttlefish Facts

1. Cuttlefish are cephalopods, not fish. Cephalopods include octopus, squid and nautilus.

2. Cuttlefish, along with most cephalopods, are the ocean’s most intelligent invertebrates.

3. Cuttlebone, is lightweight and found in the body of a cuttlefish. Cuttlebone is used by pet birds to get calcium.

4. Cuttlefish have green-blue blood and 3 hearts!

5. A cuttlefish’s camouflage is so amazing that it can take on a checkerboard pattern placed beneath it.

6. Cuttlefish are color blind.

7. Cuttlefish taste with their suckers.

8. Cuttlefish have 8 arms and 2 long tentacles used for feeding.

9. The largest cuttlefish is the Australian giant cuttlefish, which is the size and shape of an American football.

And the last cuttlefish fact is:

10. Cuttlefish eyes have W shaped eyelids so they can see in front of them and behind them at the same time.

See my review of the Tentacles Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

See the Anatomy of a Cuttlefish from PBS’s NOVA special, Kings of Camouflage