Today is all about the Octopus.
If it has not become apparent already, it is my belief that the emotional and psychological aspects of plants and animals are merely misunderstood by humans. Scientists are feared of being mocked for anthropomorphizing their subjects, but it is more about a fear of pushing the envelope than it is not believing that they actually possess unique emotional and psyhchological abilities beyond our previous expectations. Scientists are expected to have a certain level of detachment so that they can continue to experiment on animals without worrying about their care. The more they are like us, the harder it is to use them for experimentation. It’s a complicated issue. Proving intelligence in animals can be risky for a scientist’s career. Jane Goodall, who lived with primates for years, found evidence of deceitful behavior, which is questionably crossing the line of emotional response. She hesitated to share too much of it in the beginning, for fear of being mocked by her peers. Octopuses, (not octopi), are some of the most intelligent invertebrates of the sea. Thankfully, there have been enough brave scientists to give us a good understanding of this through their work.
My love of octopuses started many years ago, when I visited the octopus tank at the Minnesota Zoo. This was when my daughter was young so I spent a lot of time at the zoo. On this particular day, I was alone at the octopus tank because someone had taken my daughter off to see the starfish. It was the first time that I had seen one that was not hiding. It came out and slinked across the floor of the small tank. I was fascinated. I fell in love with it right on the spot.
Octopuses can have rather strong personalities: some are friendly, others are not. If they are friendly, they may take several of their arms (not tentacles) and wrap them around their trainer. If they are happy, they will use their camouflaging skills to change a pale whitish color. If they are angry, they may spray salt water at people and change a dark red color and their skin will become spiky.
If they are particularly curious about a person whose arm is in the tank, it can be difficult to get away from them because as you detach one arm, two more can quickly take its place. In one story, a trainer was being possessed by a curious octopus. So, to get the octopus to let go, the trainer poured a pitcher of fresh water on him and he let go. (They don’t like fresh water.) This seemed like a clever solution until the octopus sprayed salt water all over him in retaliation!
Octopus are part of the mollusk family, but unlike their other mollusk family members – they have evolved out of their protective shells. This means that they are able to slip through the smallest of cracks and hide. They are also very good at escaping. There was an article in USA Today just a few days ago about an octopus in New Zealand who escaped from his tank and made his way across the floor to a drain pipe that went out to the ocean. (Fortunately, this was an octopus that had once lived in the wild so they were confident that it would survive on its own in the ocean!)
If you are interested in octopuses and would like to learn more about them, there are a couple of interesting books that I found on the subject. One I am reading is called The Soul of an Octopus. It’s a great story about a woman who volunteered to work with octopuses at a local aquarium, and her adventures with them. Another one is called Octopus: The Ocean’s Intelligent Invertebrate.
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This post is part of a series called the A to Z Blogging Challenge, taking place during the month of April 2016. Each day is a new letter throughout the month. My theme this month is NATURE. To view other bloggers writing about this alphabet, check out the list here.
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The list so far…
A is for Aspen
B is for Breath, B is for Butterfly
C is for Consciousness
D is for Deep Space
E is for Earth
F is for Fire
G is for Garden Gnomes
H is for Heaven
I is for Inequality
J is for Jade
K is for Kissing
L is for Light
M is for Milky Way
N is for Native