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Octopus Appreciation Day

Hey guys, Keeper Charlie here to let you know that today, the 8th of October, is Octopus Appreciation Day! I did a lot of research on these guys back in college and university. Cephalopods are one of the most fascinating animal classes in the world, and octopuses may be one of the most intriguing and charismatic of all.


In honour of Octopus Appreciation Day, I'm going to give you eight fun facts about these awesome sea creatures.

 

1. THEY HAVE BLUE BLOOD


No, this doesn't mean that they're royalty. Our blood is red, because it contains proteins called haemoglobin and is iron-based. Octopus blood, however, is blue. This is because it is copper-based, and contains proteins called haemocyanin. Haemocyanin is more effective than haemoglobin at transporting oxygen in low-temperature and low-oxygen environments (such as underwater). Therefore, it allows octopuses and other cephalopods to transport oxygen more efficiently around the body. The funky colour is just a bonus!


2. THEY DON'T HAVE TENTACLES


Octopuses don't have eight tentacles - they have a grand total of ZERO tentacles! What they actually have is arms. But what's the difference? Arms are appendages that have suction cups along the entire length of the limb. Tentacles only have suction cups at the end of the limb, often in a 'tentacular club'. Squid, for example, have two tentacles and eight arms! So in reality, octopuses have no tentacles and eight arms. That'd make a good pub quiz question!


3. 'OCTOPI'? NOPE!


Have you ever heard someone use the term 'octopi'? Well, they're wrong! To find out why that pluralisation is wrong, we have to look into the root of the word. The word 'octopus' comes from the Greek word ὀκτώπους (oktṓpous), literally meaning eight-foot. (okto = eight, pous = foot). Because it has a Greek root, the word is pluralised in the Greek way, not the Latin way which means that ‘es’ is simply added to the end of the word - ‘octopi’ was never correct. Octopodes is another correct pluralisation, usually used when discussing multiple different species of octopus.


4. THE LARGEST OCTUPUS IN THE WORLD


The largest species of octopus in the world is the Giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini). This species averages about 16 feet wide as adults, which is big enough as it is, but the largest individual ever recorded was 30 feet across. The species not only grows the largest, but is also one of the slowest-growing and the most long-lived species of octopus.


5. One Heart Isn't Enough


Did you know that octopuses don't just have one heart? In fact, they have three! One heart, the systemic heart, is responsible for pumping blood throughout the entire body (much like a human heart!). The other two hearts, the branchial hearts, pump blood through the gills. Blue blood and three hearts? Super weird, and super cool!


6. MASTERS OF DISGUISE


Octopuses are incredibly adept at camouflage. Not only do they have specialised organs called chromatophores in their skin which allow them to change colour, but they also have special structures in their skin called papillae, which allow them to change their texture, too! Isn't that one of the most incredible things you've ever heard? That means they can practically become their environment! The mimic octopus takes this one step further, and disguises itself to look like other species! Good luck spotting one of these guys when they don't want to be seen.


7. ESCAPE ARTISTS


If their awesome powers of disguise weren't enough to make international super spies jealous, they're incredible escape artists, too. Octopuses have no bones. The only hard structure in their entire body is their beak, which is made of chitin. The rest of their body - head, arms, everything! - is completely flexible, meaning that even a huge octopus can fit through any gap that its beak can fit through. They are renowned in aquariums around the world for being amazing escapees.


8. OCEAN EINSTEIN


On top of all their physical capabilities, octopuses have the most incredible intelligence. 2/3 of their neurons are in their arms, not their head, meaning their limbs can all work independently on different things. They are amazing multi-taskers! Octopuses are smart enough to recognise individual people, escape from inside jars, work out puzzles, mazes, and even solve Rubik's cubes! They even use tools - one species tends to carry around Portuguese man-of-war tentacles as weapons. It blows my mind every time I think about octopuses!

 

And that's all eight! We hope you learned something new and found some appreciation for these guys. Thanks for reading, and remember to always keep learning!


-- Charlie and Tiana



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