Showing posts tagged as "octopus"
Brainy? Beautiful? What words would you use to describe the giant Pacific octopus? Thanks to ©Charlene Boarts for this great photo of a current resident!
No bones about it: How the giant Pacific octopus can flex its muscles to go from squishy to rock-solid. Check out our latest podcast!
Did you know that red octopuses sometimes “hitchhike” rides into the Aquarium? No wonder, when they can be this small!
I spy with my little eye…
We have a new female giant Pacific octopus on exhibit!
Here are some more glimpses of the largest giant Pacific octopus we’ve ever exhibited—16 feet! Learn more about our exhibit.
Ever wonder why they call it the giant Pacific octopus? Husbandry staff believes that our current resident is the largest we’ve ever exhibited, at more than 16 feet from tip to tip. Aquarist Alicia Bitondo doesn’t seem the least bit concerned!
Remember the runaway red octopus that hid in our Shale Reef exhibit for a year before getting caught wandering across the Aquarium in the middle of the night? After a brief period behind the scenes, the celebrity cephalopod is now on exhibit in our upstairs Kelp Zone!
It was 3 a.m. on June 25, and Security Officer Clara Nilsen was making her regular rounds of the Aquarium’s ground-floor exhibits. Suddenly, she spied what looked like a banana peel on the floor, in front of our Shale Reef lookdown exhibit.
“That’s odd,” she thought to herself. “Our custodial staff is usually so thorough!”
Closer examination revealed that the “banana peel” was actually a live, healthy, fist-sized red octopus (Octopus rubescens) in the midst of a midnight ramble. But where had it come from? A little Cephalopod CSI provided the answer: There was an octopus-sized wet mark on the railing in front of the Shale Reef exhibit, and an eight-foot “slime trail” leading across the floor. Mystery solved!
Clara, an experienced diver and underwater enthusiast, quickly picked up the escape artist and placed it in the water, where it “inked,” then disappeared under a rock.
Red Octopus Road Trip
But here’s where the story gets really interesting. As it turns out, the red octopus isn’t normally part of the Shale Reef exhibit, which is open on top so that visitors can look down onto an array of colorful invertebrates with the help of large, floating magnifiers.
Our husbandry staff believes the octopus hitchhiked into the Aquarium as a tiny, fingernail-size juvenile, attached to a rock or sponge. Once inside the exhibit, the reclusive, nocturnal octopus hid among the rocks, growing to its current size undetected. Based on the octopus’s size, our aquarists think it has been there—presiding over its own, secret octopus’s garden—for close to a year!
“We’d noticed that there weren’t as many crabs coming out at feeding time in that exhibit,” said Senior Aquarist Barbara Utter. “Now we realize that’s where they’d all been going—into the octopus’s tummy!”
What’s just as amazing is that none of our visitors, poring over the exhibit through the magnifiers eight hours a day, saw it either.
The clever stowaway is now behind the scenes, being readied for display in a Splash Zone exhibit. This time, you can bet that the intelligent, agile animal will be kept in an enclosed space—and closely watched!
Look what’s happening behind the scenes at the Monterey Bay Aquarium! We’re working with this species, the California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides), for possible future exhibit. Aquarist Alicia Bitondo looks pretty happy about how it’s going so far!
(Thanks as always to our staff photographer Randy Wilder.)
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.”
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