The need to label a group consisting of more than one octopus correctly has confused landlubbers and mariners alike for more than a hundred years. One octopus, two octopi. Or is it two octopuses? Octopodes? Or does it stay octopus (like deer)?
If you pride yourself on correct pronunciation, and enjoy being a little snooty, this little nugget is for you: According to Webster’s, all three are correct, but only one would have confirmed your intelligence back in 1873…
The word octopus is Greek, yet many apply Latin rules when pluralizing. The one most likely to be considered correct and understandable today according to Webster’s is octopuses or octopi – neither should bring great ridicule. For those looking for a fun fact with a dash of snootiness, can confidently go with octopodes, but be careful how you pronounce it. Few will notice an error, other than the oddity of the word itself, but if you’re going for historically correct, it’s oc-top-o-deez. Seriously.
Now that we know what to call multiples, you’ll probably never use it in context, as one octopus typically covers a territory alone. Read on for more cool facts about this 300 million year old soft mollusk of the order Octopoda!
- They are extremely smart – navigating through mazes, solving problems, remembering solutions, showing different personality traits, and even disassembling things for the pure sake of enjoyment. Many have been seen unscrewing lids, removing plugs in order to get to their prey, and trying to escape a tank. An octopus can easily become bored and will turn to a life of crime if not mentally stimulated. Checkout this cool octopus video https://youtu.be/JOV-DlxTiFU
- They have three hearts. Two hearts serve to move blood past the gills, while the third pumps blood through the rest of the body. Two of an octopus’s hearts move blood though the body, beyond the gills, while the third keeps circulation flowing for its organs. That third heart, called the systemic heart, stops beating when an octopus swims. This is suspected to be part of the reason why octopuses prefer to crawl.
- They have blue blood. To survive in the deep ocean, octopuses evolved a copper rather than iron-based blood called hemocyanin, which turns its blood blue. This copper base is more efficient at transporting oxygen then hemoglobin when water temperature is very low and not much oxygen is around.
- They have arms, not tentacles. Squid, cuttlefish and nautiluses havetentacles. Octopuses have 8 arms, zero tentacles.
- Each arm a mind of its own. Two-thirds of an octopus’s neurons are in its arms, allowing it to react to stimuli and function at a fairly high level on its own (even when it’s no longer attached to the rest of the octopus body!).
- They smell with their arms. The sensitive little suckers on the arms assist the octopus to smell.
- They see with their arms. Scientists recently found that octopus skin contains the same light-sensitive proteins present in octopus eyes, meaning an octopus’s skin can sense and respond to light without information from the eyes or brain.
- Their skin changes color and pattern to blend in with their surroundings. Even when you find yourself looking directly at an octopus, chances are you won’t realize it. Octopuses are able to change the color of their entire body in three-tenths of a second.
- They are colorblind.
- They prefer to walk. When an octopus swims, the heart that pumps blood to its organs stops beating, so crawling is a more efficient, less exhausting alternative. Despite this handicap, they are incredibly fast swimmers when the need arises.
- They prefer to live alone. Multiples in captivity are feisty and competitive and generally kept in separate tanks.
- They decorate. Some octopuses have been seen collecting shells and other objects to create gardens around their lairs.
- They carry weapons. Some octopuses have been seen using shells for protection.
- Their ink is poisonous, even to themselves. More than just a distraction, octopus ink causes physical harm to its enemies – irritating the predator’s sight and confusing its sense of taste and smell. An octopus who doesn’t escape its own inking can die.
- A male reproduces with arm #3. The third arm looks a little different than the others (fewer suckers). When mating, some species of male octopus insert the arm into a female’s oviduct, while others just remove the arm and give it to her. Awesome.
- Death by Mating. An octopus will die shortly after mating or giving birth.
- They have a beak. Each octopus has a beak completely hidden inside its head. The unseen beak is made of keratin (just like human hair and nails) to deliver venom to its prey and to crush mollusks.
- The Eyes Have it. An octopus sees the same whether it is upside down or right side up. Sensory receptors called statocysts keep the pupils balanced as the octopus moves. The Caribbean Reef Octopus has very dark circles of color around its eyes, making it different than the common variety.
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