Why We’re So “Attached” to the Giant Pacific Octopus
When we posted the photo you see here to our Facebook page, it received almost 3,000 responses—the most we’ve ever had! So we wondered: what’s the real story behind the image? For that, we asked Senior Aquarist Julia Mariottini, the joyful recipient of the “octopus hug.”
Giant Pacific octopuses are intelligent and often interact with our aquarists—but “this one was really outgoing,” says Julia. “I happen to be ticklish, and she would often touch my neck with one of her arms during a feeding session.”
The interaction was the result of an “enrichment,” which  we offer many of our animals to keep them healthy and stimulated. “During feedings I would play with her,” says Julia. “I would make it more interesting by having her stretch out her arms for food, and we might have a little tug of war.” Occasionally, as you see here, this little exchange would result in a big hug.
This particular octopus was almost 60 pounds and 12 feet from tip to tip—big enough to give most of us pause. Nonetheless, says Julia, “I was never scared. I’d been working with this animal for a year when the photo was taken, and we had a relationship built on trust.”
Caring for the giant Pacific octopus is one of the most enjoyable husbandry jobs here at the Aquarium, according to the many aquarists who’ve had the privilege.
“I think all of the aquarists who take care of octopuses get a little emotionally attached to the animals,” says Julia. “It’s really fun.”
Signup for our text alerts when you visit, and you might catch an octopus feeding or training session! Learn more about daily activities at the Aquarium.

Why We’re So “Attached” to the Giant Pacific Octopus

When we posted the photo you see here to our Facebook page, it received almost 3,000 responses—the most we’ve ever had! So we wondered: what’s the real story behind the image? For that, we asked Senior Aquarist Julia Mariottini, the joyful recipient of the “octopus hug.”

Giant Pacific octopuses are intelligent and often interact with our aquarists—but “this one was really outgoing,” says Julia. “I happen to be ticklish, and she would often touch my neck with one of her arms during a feeding session.”

The interaction was the result of an “enrichment,” which  we offer many of our animals to keep them healthy and stimulated. “During feedings I would play with her,” says Julia. “I would make it more interesting by having her stretch out her arms for food, and we might have a little tug of war.” Occasionally, as you see here, this little exchange would result in a big hug.

This particular octopus was almost 60 pounds and 12 feet from tip to tip—big enough to give most of us pause. Nonetheless, says Julia, “I was never scared. I’d been working with this animal for a year when the photo was taken, and we had a relationship built on trust.”

Caring for the giant Pacific octopus is one of the most enjoyable husbandry jobs here at the Aquarium, according to the many aquarists who’ve had the privilege.

“I think all of the aquarists who take care of octopuses get a little emotionally attached to the animals,” says Julia. “It’s really fun.”

Signup for our text alerts when you visit, and you might catch an octopus feeding or training session! Learn more about daily activities at the Aquarium.

Notes

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    Seeing this literally brought tears to my eyes. One of the many reasons I know this is the right career path for me....
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    I’m so excited for when I get enough hours and can apply to be an aquarist helper and feed our octopus. He’s just as big...
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    This is too much (‘:
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    I’m so stoked that the aquarium has a tumblr, you have no idea.
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About me

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, perched on the edge of a world-famous coastline, is your window to the wonders of the ocean. It’s located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey and is open daily except Christmas Day.

For more information about our animals and exhibits, and to view our live web cams, please visit www.montereybayaquarium.org.

Hours of operation vary by season. Daily schedules and tickets are available on our website or by calling
(831) 648-4800.