Cephalopod Awareness Days: Oohing over Octopuses
Greetings Blogophiles! It’s finally here, October 8th, the first day of International Cephalopod Awareness Days (ICAD)! Because it is the 8th and octopuses have eight arms, today is Octopus Day!! Be aware of them. I really like octopuses, but as a paleontologist, I almost never get to see them. To quote Dirk Fuchs of the Freie Universität of Berlin “finding an octopus fossil is about as unlikely as finding a fossil sneeze.” My only research experience with octopuses is examining the chemical composition of their stylets (vestigial shells) and those are from extant octopuses.
Still you’ve got to love octopuses, they have many skills. They can predict the winner of the world cup, they can open jars for you and they are notorious criminals (stealing fish and crabs from other aquarium tanks). Even though they are color blind, octopuses can change their skin color and texture or their shape to match their environment. When they are threatened, octopuses can make themselves very large (deimatic display), or they can make themselves very small to squeeze through tight crevasses.
Here are some fast facts:
- Octopuses have three hearts, one systemic that pumps oxygen to the body and two branchial which pump oxygen through the gills.
- Unlike, humans, octopuses and other cephalopods have blue blood. This is because their blood binds oxygen using a blue, copper containing protein called hemocyanin, whereas human blood is red because the oxygen-binding protein, hemoglobin, contains iron.
- Octopuses are categorized into main taxonomic groups: Cirrata, octopuses that have fins, like the Dumbo octopus, and the more common Incirrata, octopus without fins, like the ones you see at most aquariums.
- Octopuses are very intelligent and are capable of learning, but they have very short life spans, anywhere from six months to about five years, depending on species and environmental stability.
- After mating, all octopuses go through senescence then die. To quote Roland Anderson of the Seattle Aquarium, “there is no such thing as safe sex for octopuses.” Senescence is the time in an octopus’ life cycle where it goes, blind, loses motor function and stops being able to learn new things. Some of these symptoms are similar to what humans in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease go through.
So let’s all spend today thinking about what marvelous creatures octopuses are and please do yourselves a favor and follow the links to watch some great octopus videos or visit Roger Hanlon’s Marine Biology Lab at Woods Hole website and scroll through their media. It will make your Monday so much better. Tune in tomorrow for day two of Cephalopod Awareness Days.