Many years ago, I was working in Spain. Well, I say working; it was only for a few weeks. Helping out three friends, I suppose you might call it. The company paid for the flight, but did not pay me. I was more than happy, because the task in hand was well within my comfort zone, as was the May weather.
So, there we were, four happy water sporters, winching a speed boat out of the water and onto it’s trailer. I felt something all together wrong about my left ankle, which was under waist deep water. Puzzled by the sensation, I shook the offending leg and got on with my job. There was nothing see down there through the rippling water. It really felt odd; no pain, but a gentle, firm, tightening sensation and heavy. With each turn of the windlass the boat and I moved up the beach a little, which meant, it was soon possible to lift my foot clear of the water’s surface; as long as I did a full Tiller Girl. The only problem was, my leg felt so heavy that it would not lift above knee height. We all continued pushing, pulling and winching the boat up towards dry land, me steadying the back of the boat with my hands, whilst dragging my leaden foot along the sea bed. Now with the sea at upper shin depth, I called a halt to the winching for a moment. I needed to take an urgent look at the cause of my numbing, paralysis. Lifting my foot above the surface, the banter stopped abruptly. Laughing faces hardened into rictus grins. There, wrapped snuggly around my left ankle and lower calf was an adult octopus!
Seeing it there, that was a shock, but the moment it caught my eye it took my breath away. It gave me a hard, fixed stare, let go of my leg and slipped back into the water.
It is not the only member of it’s family that I have met over the years. Where Weymouth meets Portland Bill in the lush, green county of Dorset, UK, there is a seaside cove with a pebble beach. Off this beach there can be so many cuttlefish in the sea that it boggles the mind. These alien creatures with their ability to change their skin colour, in waves, across their bodies, and their large eyes taking everything in, swim up to divers and snorkelers for a closer inspection. They are friendly and inquisitive and remarkable to spend time with. If you are lucky you might also bump into a Squid. Octopus, also want to check us out, but a swim at night with a decent torch is an important factor, as they are nocturnal and cannot resist checking out a light source after dark.
I love Cephalopods. They are beautiful and weird masters of their world. They hunt and are hunted.
In Spain, as with the rest of the Mediterranean, the relationship of people to this family of animals is very different to mine. Cephalopods simply are nothing more or less than food. Click here to take a look at the ancient skill of preparing Octopuses for air drying.
Now I bring you all we should know about my buddies, the Octopuses, in the hope you might think twice about scoffing them.
INTELLIGENCE AND CHARACTER
Octopus’ have a large brain to body size, proportional to some birds and mammals
Octopus’ have a main brain which gives orders such as, catch that food, as well as a brain in each tentacle. The tentacles can get the job done autonomously. The main brain is then free to do other tasks.
Under laboratory conditions, octopus’ have been shown to have individual characters
QUICK CHANGE ARTIST
Octopus’ imitate other marine lifeforms – matching shape, texture and colour
The upper surface of an octopus’ body is covered in three types of cell:-
Colour changing cells – chromatophores – each cell has has 3 colour packs to choose from
Light reflecting cells – iridophores – these mirror surrounding colours
And, papillae, like the fur on your tongue, can change size and shape to alter the texture of the skin
Octopus’ have very good eyesight, similar to humans
Octopus’ are mostly muscle
No bones, so Octopus’ can squeeze into small, tight and irregularly shaped spaces
Octopus’ have eight arms that are strong and flexible, with suckers for gripping
Each arm is autonomous, with it’s own nervous system, completing tasks as it sees fit
Octopus’ have a strong beak and a drill
Don’t forget that big brain
Octopus’ are adaptable thinkers
Octopus’ are jet propelled; forcing water through a tube (siphon) gives speeds of up to 25mph
Ink, held in a sac inside it’s body, can be deployed; to confuse the enemy, or for discrete escape
For a while ink ruins the enemy’s ability to taste and smell. It contains the chemical tyrosinase
LIFE, SEX, DEATH
Sperm is passed from male to female on his hectocotylus, a 1m long adapted tentacle. Sperm is placed either direct into the female, or the hectocotylus (arm) is snapped off and given to female to use at her leisure
The male lives for up to 2 months after mating
The female cares for her eggs until hatched.
The female stops eating after egg laying, dying just after the young hatch: 2 -10 months
Young put on 5% weight increase per day!
Adults weigh a third of the weight of all the food they have ever eaten.
Octopus’ live for 3-5 years
Octopus’ blood is blue – copper based, ours is iron based
Octopus’ often move home weekly.
Octopus’ are nocturnal.
Octopus’ are predatory and all have poison, one is very poisonous
There are about 300 different species of Octopus world wide