Monday, March 2, 2009

Octopus Crimes and Misdemeanors

The LA Times reports that a two-spotted octopus succeeded in redirecting her tank's flow valve onto the floor of the Santa Monica Pier aquarium, flooding the neighboring exhibits. Note the timing: "Judging by the size of the flood, [aquarium personell] estimated that the water flowed for about 10 hours before the first staff member... showed up for work." To pull this off, the octopus would have had to wait until everyone went home, and then complete her redirection of the water flow sometime before midnight.

This reminds me of a mind-blowing story I once heard from a labmate of mine, who used to work at the Monterey Bay aquarium. They had this beautiful petting-zoo tidepool display, where kids could come and touch starfish and sea cucumbers and the like. But every couple of days, an invertebrate from the tidepool would disappear. They figured the thief must be working at night, so finally they put the tidepool under video surveillance to catch him or her in the act.

When they checked the tapes, they caught their thief: an octopus living in a display tank opposite the tidepool. Every night, this wise guy would wait till everyone went home, then squeeze his way out of the top of his tank. He'd climb carefully down the side of his tank and walk over to the tidepool display, where he'd find himself a tasty, defenseless snack. The octopus knew that if he stayed in the tidepool display too long, he'd get busted, so he made sure to get back to his tank before any of the humans showed up in the morning.

While we're on the topic, have you seen this amazing video of an octopus in camouflage? Watch as the diver, David Gallo, approaches very slowly, until finally the octopus decides he's been spotted and opts for plan B.



therapydoc said...

OMG, something new to worry about. I never did like octopi and now, with Octomom, the very word, eight, is going to be a problem. No wonder that guy on Sesame Street tried to sell one to Ernie.

DF said...

Octopus just try to cause trouble. I've heard that to keep them the tank has to be totally sealed because they can squeeze through the smallest holes and get out.

I loved the video. It really hits you in reverse slow mo. I had no idea.


YZF said...

I loved every word of this. Off to tweet it!

Anonymous said...

reminds me of "Night at the Museum"

- Franis said...

Yes, it's said that to keep an octopus in a tank, you must seal all openings that are bigger than the octopus' beak!

I've spotted a few octopuses while snorkeling here on the Big Island of Hawaii. Since I was on the surface merely looking at one of them, its strategy was to come forward, display itself on a prominent rock & dazzle me by cycling it's colors across its body. Then when I had to look away to empty water from my mask or looked away for another reason, it made its move to completely disappear, poof! I knew it was nearby, hiding, so I found it, once. Since I was diving deeper to look closer, it fled; then used the same strategy when I floated to the surface above it. The second time it worked like a charm because the places to hide were more effective.

Octopuses are really, really smart creatures. I hate it when people around here fish for them and eat them.