Wednesday, September 3, 2008
One of my favorite sea creatures is the octopus. Most people know of them as eight-legged sea creatures, but few know just how fascinating they really are. They are actually very intelligent, perhaps the most intelligent invertebrates in the world. They have been known to learn and solve problems in research laboratories. They have many unique adaptations that allow them to thrive in just about any part of the ocean. They are skilled predators and crafty survivors.
These creatures are mollusks, related to clams, sea shells, and squid. They have a hydroskeleton, which means they are held up by water. They have no bones, and become a limp blob when out of the water. Strangely enough, this doesn't always deter them from slithering up onto land to get to food trapped in tidepools. They can squeeze their bodies into tiny crevices and through holes just a tiny fraction of their size.
They have a large number of defense mechanisms to ward off predators. They camouflage perfectly with their environment and become very hard to see. Their skin is covered in cells that allow them to change colors to match nearly any surrounding. The skin of many species can even change shape to mimic the textures of the world around them. If a predator does spot an octopus, they can spray dark ink into the water. This smokescreen shrouds them from view and allows them to jet away quickly.
Octopus normally crawl along the ocean floor on their eight legs. When necessary, they can force water through their body and out in a strong jet to propel them quickly backwards. It is much like when you let the air out of a balloon. Their legs are covered in suction cups which allow them to stick to surfaces, pick up objects, and hold onto prey. They are fierce and stealthy predators and will pounce on unsuspecting crabs and other small creatures they can catch. There are many interesting species of octopus which I will highlight in later posts.