10 Reasons Why Octopuses Are Awesome

  Hi there, I do not think we have met before. I live on the bottom of the Indian Ocean, so that is no wonder. […]

Image courtesy of BBC: Octopus armour – Life Story: Episode 2


Hi there, I do not think we have met before. I live on the bottom of the Indian Ocean, so that is no wonder. Some relatives of mine live closer to your home, though. Some even live in the cold British waters. I am an octopus, of course. Although we are often depicted as monsters of the sea, we are a lot more sophisticated than that. We octopuses are highly versatile and highly intelligent, with a wide range of talents showing evolution at its best. Let me show you 10 of our talents that demonstrate exactly how awesome we octopuses are.


1. Skin changing

Using an advanced system of muscles, we can change the colour of our skins to blend in with the environment. We can even change the texture of our skins, from warty and uneven to completely smooth. It makes us virtually invisible to both predator and prey.


2. Brute force

Soft-bodied though we are, we have two weapons that allow us to eat shell fish, crabs, and other creatures with tough skeletons or armour. Our first weapon is hidden in the centre between our arms: our mouth. We have a bony beak similar in shape to a parrot’s beak. It pierces through shells almost as easily as through skin. Alternatively, we can employ our second weapon and simply pull the two halves of a shell apart. The bottom side of our arms is completely covered with suckers. Our suckers are so strong that they will not let go unless we want them to. Thus, we are not only a desired prey, we are also a fearsome predator. Thanks to our suckers we can even catch prey greater than ourselves.


Read about how octopus suckers work


3. Jet propulsion

Since long before humans began using jet propulsion in aviation, we cephalopods have been using it for swimming. Unlike fish, we do not have fins to steer us and propel us. Instead, we propel ourselves forward by sucking in water into a cavity in our mantle (our “head”) and then drive the water out with great force. This is an example of how we octopuses inspired mankind’s inventions. Who knows where you’d be without us?

Read more about jet propulsion


4. Inking

Skilled swimmers though we may be, some sea creatures are simply faster than us. When in trouble, cornered by a predator, we have one last resort, which is squirting ink in their face. In the commotion we try and escape unseen. In general, inking is a sign of great distress. If you happen to come across me or a relative of mine in distress, please do not corner us to make us ink. If you see one of us ink and flee, do not follow us. In fact, when you encounter an octopus, it would be best if you kept your distance. As long as we feel not threatened by you, we can observe one other from a distance. Fleeing from you would make us vulnerable to actual predators for no reason.


5. Feeling at home everywhere

You people keep dumping your plastic in our oceans, but sometimes, just sometimes, your garbage may provide one of us with safe home. We are making the best of an awkward situation, aren’t we? A snorkeler loses his mask: I can live in it. A tourist throws his empty beer bottle in the sea: I can  live in it! Here it comes in quite handy to be an invertebrate. If our beak can fit through a hole, we can squeeze through it too.


6. Tool use

Despite all the safe houses your garbage may provide, I am very opposed to you interfering with the creatures of ocean because your garbage may poison or suffocate innocent creatures. Obviously, we octopuses do not need all your artificial objects. We are much happier with the natural waste that is around everywhere. Coconuts, for instance, are ideal. If we have two halves, we can just fit in there and pull the halves together with our suckers. Shells work just fine as well.


7. Mimicking other creatures

Sometimes, the easiest way to avoid being eaten is simply by pretending not to be an octopus. Some of us are highly skilled mimickers. They can pretend to be a poisonous sea snake, a sole, or a lion fish. In fact, they recognise predators so well that they will mimick one of its natural enemies. We are the only known creature in the world that can mimic a variety of creatures, instead of just one. Don’t you think that is worth some recognition?


8. Being poisonous

Some of us to not have to pretend to be a poisonous creature, because they themselves are in fact poisonous. All of us are just a bit poisonous, but only one of us is harmful to people and larger animals. The blue-ringed octopus is so cute and tiny. It lives in the tidal pools, and sometimes unsuspecting tourists pick them up, misled by their cuteness. It might freak them out so much that they bite. They do not bite hard so you might not even notice. Sometimes even touching them or being in contact with their tidal pool is enough to get seriously ill. You must seek medical treatment as soon as possible if you think you may have contacted a blue-ringed octopus. Even within minutes you may experience numbness, progressive muscular weakness and difficulty breathing and swallowing. Respiratory arrest may then lead to death, if not treated.
Although I understand that you might be ambivalent about the toxicity of this little fellow, I personally think that is pretty awesome that it prevents them from getting eaten. Thou shalt not mess with octopuses!


9. Regenerating arms

Of course, despite all defensive mechanisms and against all odds, it may happen that someone takes a bite of me. Although you may argue that seven arms should be enough to get by, losing more than one arm is rather inconvenient. Fortunately, our arms regenerate. This makes the loss of an arm slightly more bearable. Even more, some of us can deliberately part with one of their arms when needed. Our arms contains two-thirds of all our neurons, however, so we tend to be rather fond of them. You might even argue that our arms have minds of their own.

Read about the minds of octopus arms


10. Coming out on land

If you were not yet convinced that we octopuses are not just one-trick ponies, you have to know that we can also conquer the land if need be. Similar to how people occassionally take a look in our underwater world, while snorkeling or diving, we sometimes explore your world. In particular, when the tide gets really low, our pool might run dry or out of food so that we have to migrate over land. And, occasionally, an eccentric octopus might have a whole other reason to leave the comforts of the water.

Read more about octopus personalities

About Jennifer Jochems

Jennifer is an MSc student in Computer Science and Mathematics at Balliol College with a particular interest in anything that emerges from the human mind