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Octopus or Devilfish; Animals that Adapt their Color to their Environment; Using Its Colour for Camouflage

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octopii
Blending In - http://www.explorerdirect.co.uk/

Blending In - http://www.explorerdirect.co.uk/

The siphon through which the octopus expels water as it breathes can be easily observed in this image.

The siphon through which the octopus expels water as it breathes can be easily observed in this image.

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The octopus, also known as the Devilfish, is an amazing creature! It is able to adapt to its environment rendering itself invisible, or nearly invisible, to escape a predator or to capture its prey!

When I had my marine aquariums, I was often tempted to consider the introduction of an octopus into the underwater world I was creating. Despite my fascination with these wondrous creatures, I was always able to talk myself out of it. One good reason NOT to keep an octopus was that I valued some of the other creatures I had previously decided to keep. They would have made a very tasty, but expensive, meal for the eight armed mollusk. The advice typically given in keeping an octopus in an aquarium is to only keep octopuses in it, and then to only keep one of them. Not very exciting.



Answers.com defines an octopus as: “Any of numerous carnivorous marine mollusks of the genus Octopus or related genera, found worldwide. The octopus has a rounded soft body, eight arms with each bearing two rows of suckers, a large distinct head, and a strong beaklike mouth. Also called devilfish.”

The octopus is a mollusk that has no external or internal skeleton. Because of this, they are able to squeeze through very small openings. So if keeping them in an aquarium, the aquarium must have a very tight fitting lid, or this extremely intelligent escape artist will be out of the aquarium whenever it chooses. And because of their strength, they sometimes use their legs to lift or push the cover right off the tank.

An octopus is able to live for short periods of time out of the water. Some aquarists have reported that their “octopus leaves its own tank, goes across the room, or to a tank beside it, entering that different tank, eats some of the fish or crustaceans, then travels back to its own tank.” That is amazing!

But there are also reports of the octopus drying up on the floor because they didn’t make it back in time! More of the scenario that I would expect!

A White Spotted Octopus hunting for molluscs and crabs in the sea grass at night in Aqaba Marine Park. www.redseaexplorer.com

A White Spotted Octopus hunting for molluscs and crabs in the sea grass at night in Aqaba Marine Park. www.redseaexplorer.com

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Octopus in Shell - The small Atlantic pygmy octopus is known to inhabit an empty clamshell.

Octopus in Shell - The small Atlantic pygmy octopus is known to inhabit an empty clamshell.

Physical Characteristics

But enough about keeping them in aquariums, let’s talk about them in their natural environment – the ocean.

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In addition to being a mollusk, the octopus is a cephalopod, meaning “head to foot” because the octopus’ feet are attached to its head, like the squid and cuttlefish. Octopuses are very short lived, living only 1-2 years, but most only live to about 6 months. There are approximately 300 species around the world.

The octopus ranges from 1 - 13 feet (0.3 - 4meters) in length. The Giant Pacific Octopus who lives in the coastal waters of British Columbia is the largest octopus in the world. The largest one ever captured weighed about 600 pounds, and its tentacles spanned 33 feet! However, most octopuses are much smaller, with the females rarely exceeding 55 pounds and the male usually averages less than 90 pounds.

The octopus has eight arms with suckers on the full length of them. They use these suckers to attach themselves to objects and to climb. The octopus uses its arms and suckers to catch and choke its prey. The suckers also serve as taste buds. The Giant Pacific Octopus has two rows of suckers on each arm for a total of 1,600 suckers!

Octopuses have a large head and well-developed eyes. However, they are deaf.

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The body of the octopus looks like a bag. It moves as the octopus breathes filling with water as the octopus breathes in, and deflating as the octopus breathes out. When the octopus breathes the water out, the water is forced through a tube called a siphon. This expelling of air is what the octopus uses to propel itself.

An octopus has 3 hearts and light blue blood!


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Eating Habits

Octopuses are omnivores, feeding on both animal and vegetable substances. Their mouth is hard like a beak allowing them to tear their food and to crack invertebrate shells to get to the meat inside. Its favorite foods are crabs, mollusks and crayfish.

Octopuses hunt using stealth. They camouflage to match their surroundings waiting for their prey to swim or crawl by. The octopus will then reach out and grab it, secreting a venomous saliva (a nerve poison) that stuns its prey. Octopus venom is poisonous and in some cases can be fatal to humans. Most octopuses are nocturnal creatures therefore do most of their hunting and feeding at nights.

Octopuses are preyed upon by sharks, dolphins, morays and conger eels.


Defensive Strategies

If an octopus becomes upset of frightened it may release ink to camouflage itself from potential predators. Watch this video to see how easy the ink made it for the octopus to disappear.



Another way they camouflage themselves is to adapt their color to that of their surroundings. Using a network of pigmented cells and specialized muscles, the common octopus can almost instantaneously match the colors, patterns, and even textures of its surroundings. It does this much the same way as a chameleon does to hide itself, but better, because an octopus can also change its shape.



Octopuses are considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates. Experiments show they have short- and long-term memory, that they can distinguish shapes and patterns, and that they may even possess observational learning.

Octopuses are able to mate because one arm of the male is modified into a sexual organ that deposits sperm in the mantle cavity of the female. The eggs are attached to a rock, where the female guards them until they hatch. The average litter size is 80 young.

As they hatch, the young octopuses swim to the surface and float with the plankton for a month or two. After that time, they swim back to the sea floor. Male octopuses die within a few months of mating. Female octopuses die soon after their eggs hatch.

Octopuses are related to: chitons, abalone, snails, nudibranchs, sea hares, limpets, scallops, oysters, clams and mussels.




An octopus is able to take care of itself, as you will see what happens when it encounters a 5 foot shark, in the following video.


Other Mollusk Articles by this Author:


Other Sealife Articles by this Author:


Reference Sources:

Getting Lost - A very good example of how an octopus changes color to blend in with its environment. www.redseaexplorer.com

Getting Lost - A very good example of how an octopus changes color to blend in with its environment. www.redseaexplorer.com

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How to Prepare, Cook and Eat Octopus

Several comments have discussed the issue of preparing, cooking and eating octopus. If you are interested in this topic, visit this article: How to Prepare, Cook and Eat Octopus.

Comments: "Octopus or Devilfish; Animals that Adapt their Color to their Environment; Camouflage using Its Colour"

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on March 29, 2012:

alocsin - I have eliminated the ending so that you and others will not be so unpleasantly surprised. That will be another hub in the future. Thanks again for letting me know and giving me input on how to improve the hub!

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on March 29, 2012:

alocsin - I added the last section because someone asked me to, but after your comment and thinking about it, I believe that I will be separating the two. Thanks so much for bringing it to my attention.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on March 28, 2012:

This is one of my favorite animals, so thanks for highlighting them, though the last section was not the most pleasant surprise ;) Voting this Up and Interesting.

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on January 21, 2012:

i'm glad to hear you wouldn't want that to happen to your husband :-)

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on January 12, 2012:

Exactly ... and then the thought of your body being torn to shreds by sharks ... just don't know. I just don't think I could do that to my husband. But it is an interesting concept. We want to be cremated so that we don't take up space anywhere ... it is basically the same thing.

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on January 12, 2012:

welll, i think she'll be sad enough to see my demise...

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on December 18, 2011:

PDXKaraokeGuy - how does your wife feel about that? I don't think I would like to know that I was feeding my husband to the sharks. I just don't know ....

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on December 18, 2011:

well, if i'm dead, i may as well feed sharks

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 21, 2011:

PDXKaraokeGuy - animation has certainly changed from when it was hand drawn and then slight movements were drawn and re-drawn. That was such a time intensive process.

Being buried at sea and eaten by sharks, humm... interesting.

Thanks for stopping by.

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on November 20, 2011:

I know it's a different medium but I remember watching a special on The Little Mermaid and how difficult that film was for the animators because the water was always moving and all the features of the characters would be moving as well, especially the hair. i find the ocean fascinating. That's why i want to be buried at sea and, hopefully, eating by a shark.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 17, 2011:

Kris Heeter - I love creatures of the sea myself. They are so fascinating and beautiful. It's an environment that is so foreign to those of us who are relegated to live on dry ground. Thanks for stopping by!

Kris Heeter from Indiana on November 17, 2011:

This hub tugs at my biologist's heart - I love marine life. There's nothing more beautiful than seeing these in the wild. Makes me want to go diving again (haven't been in years)!

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 16, 2011:

Ahydz - you do know that this comment will probably get him going again. He likes to stir things up. But he could be hiding out ... somewhere ... afraid that he will get exactly what he deserves.

But yes, we do like to have a little fun!

Ahydz from Philippines on November 16, 2011:

It shows here that HSB and davenmidtown have aged gracefully. I like that you guys have a great sense of humor.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 16, 2011:

You best stop laughing and start running!

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on November 16, 2011:

hahahahahahahahahahahahhaah this is of course a euphemism....

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 16, 2011:

I think I was tricked. You have to go to my magnet hub for the rest of the story, and I'm going to go hurt a fellow hubber who will go unmentioned but whose name begins with D and ends with avenmidtown.

Justin W Price from Juneau, Alaska on November 16, 2011:

ha. U said "balls"

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 11, 2011:

What are you talking about? That zinger flew too high for me to grab hold of it!

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on November 11, 2011:

I never said what kind of angel... you people... just assumed...

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 11, 2011:

If you don't stop it, people are going to quit thinking you are naughty, and will know it to be a fact!

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on November 11, 2011:

I'd rather have his brain

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 11, 2011:

The very one you referenced above. Santa will be bringing you the Newton's Balls!!!

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on November 11, 2011:

Which hub?

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 11, 2011:

davenmidtown - perfect angel ... I just can't touch that one - even with a ten foot pole!

That hub is still waiting for your lovin' touch!

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on November 11, 2011:

I am a perfect angel...

read this hub by HSB it talks about newtons balls... honestly...

https://hubpages.com/games-hobbies/Magnetic-Fun-Ma...

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 11, 2011:

Ahydz - davenmidtown just can't help himself. Sometimes the naughty in him just oozes out!

Ahydz from Philippines on November 11, 2011:

You got it right HSB. And I can't help stopping by at your hubs. It's fun here.

Davenmidtown -- I guess you were a naughty boy back then. It shows here now. Hahaha! (peace)

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 11, 2011:

Ahydz - I imagine that you also saw the doctored up picture for the maggots on the brain that you mentioned much earlier. Thanks for stopping by!

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on November 11, 2011:

davenmidtown - that's a whole different hub still waiting on your reply. You are going to have to wonder over there for a while. That hub is feeling neglected!

Ahydz from Philippines on November 11, 2011:

You're right about the maggot thing. I've seen on TV about maggots eating dead tissue on a mans leg with diabetes. Yup, I guess that's what I've seen long time ago.

You too have a grea