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5 Incredible Facts About Octopuses

Ever wished that you could morph into other animals, carry a brain in each arm, and slink down to slither through cracks of only a few centimeters? Let's talk about the eight-tentacled animal that can do all this and more.

By
Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD,
April 25, 2016
Episode #190

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Earlier this month an animal in captivity made headlines by escaping from its cage and ultimately setting itself free into the wild. No, it wasn’t a bear or a leopard from the zoo, nor was it an owl or a falcon from a bird sanctuary. One night just a few weeks ago, after everyone had left the National Aquarium of New Zealand, an octopus named Inky took advantage of the fact that someone had left the lid on his tank slightly ajar.

In a chapter of Finding Nemo come to life, Inky slipped through the small crack at the top of his tank and, as suggested by a slimy trail, crawled eight feet across the floor. There he found a 50-meter-long drain pipe (that’s > 160 feet) which he shimmied down before spilling out into Hawke’s Bay. He left behind his roommate, Blotchy.

In honor of sneaky Inky’s heroic escape to freedom, let’s highlight five ways that octopuses are really more than meets the eye.  

1. They Are Escape Artists

Inky isn’t the only octopus to enjoy leaving his tank at night (although he may be the only one to actually achieve his freedom). Octopuses are not only extremely intelligent, but the only hard part of their body is their mouth which is very similar to a parrot’s beak. Thus they can squeeze into incredibly small spaces, like under doors and through cracked tank lids. A 600-pound octopus once squeezed through a tube the size of a quarter. Don’t believe me? There’s a video.

2. Some Octopuses Can Morph into Other Animals

The aptly named mimic octopus appears to morph into other species and predators by changing its shape and color. Marine biologists have witnessed them doing very convincing impersonations of poisonous flat fish, sea snakes, lion fish, and even kelp. The mimic octopus is currently the only known marine animal that can take such a wide variety of forms and so it is definitely worth watching this other-worldly creature in action.

3. Their Tentacles Have Different Personalities

We do all of our thinking in one spot: our brain controls both our voluntary and involuntary reactions. It’s where we do our reasoning but also where we manage our emotions. The octopus also has a centrally located brain, found wrapped around their throat, but that brain contains only one-third of the animal’s neurons and is only about the size of a walnut.

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