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|Giant Pacific Octopus|
Largest octopus species; largest specimen ever recorded was 30ft from arm to arm and weighed 600lbs; typical size is 16ft arm span and approximately 110lbs.
They range from southern California, northward along the coast of North America, across the Aleutian Islands, and southward to Japan.
Giant Pacific octopus has a noticeable mantle, their bulbous sack-like body, which unlike their snail and clam relatives lacks a shell covering. This tissue surrounds a space called the mantle cavity. The octopus will pass water over their gills for breathing and propel themselves through the water through the use of a tube called a siphon Underneath the mantle, where its eight arms converge, are the octopus’s mouth and beak.
The eight arms of the octopus are covered with round suckers; the surface of these suckers is made of a substance similar to human fingernails.
Because of their shy nature octopuses camouflage themselves when they are not hidden in crevices. Special cells called chromatophores in the skin can change the octopus’s color and appearance of its texture to blend with the background.
Giant Pacific octopuses are common from the inter-tidal zone down to depths of 2,500 feet (750 m). They are found living among rocks and stones.
Adults feed on crabs, clams, snails, small fish, and even other octopuses. They use sharp parrot-like beaks to crush the shells of their prey. Newly hatched octopuses are small enough to hide among plankton, so their food, equally small, consists of copepods and larval crabs.
Giant Pacific octopuses are preyed on by seals, sea lions, sea otters, fish and larger octopuses. Octopuses have a special sac which contains a dark ink. When the animal is threatened, the ink is squirted into the water to confuse predators and allows the octopus to escape.
Male octopuses have a special “reproductive arm” which assists in mating by placing sperm ropes into the female near the egg tube, to fertilize her eggs. The female octopus lays her eggs in a protected den and constantly cleans the eggs’ surface by siphoning water over them. The female stays with the eggs until they are hatched, and then she dies soon afterward.
Q: How many octopuses do you have at the aquarium?
A: “We currently have one octopus on exhibit and his name is Puck, after Shakespeare’s Midsummers Night Dream’s prankster."
Q: How large can octopuses get?
A: "They can reach weights of 150 pounds but the largest we have ever had at the aquarium was 100 pounds."
Q: How long have you had Puck?
A: “We have had puck for 6 months but he has only been on exhibit for 3 or 4 months.”
Q: What do you feed Puck?
A: “The food of preferences of octopuses in the wild are lobsters, crabs, and shrimp. Here, we use a variety of food such as clams, squid, capelin, herring and shrimp. We combine this variety with the use of toys or hand feeding to prevent the octopus from getting bored."
Q: "Why do I see toys in the exhibit?"
A: "Octopuses are notorious for causing trouble. They tend to get bored of their exhibit if you don’t keep them active. They need stimulation so we use enrichment items such as hamster balls to keep their minds active. They have even been known to play with their filtration, flooding their tanks or try to climb out."
Q: "Are octopuses really as smart as people say?"
A:"Octopuses are definitely intelligent. Scientists are usually hesitant to label an animal, especially an invertebrate, as intelligent but octopuses have been seen to mimic each other and learn from other octopuses. They can problem solve things that we wouldn’t expect them to. They have the ability to approach things in a different manner; they can squish themselves down to fit to tiny spaces and to reach into tiny spaces. I have used hamster tubing to feed the octopus and expected it to use an arm to reach into the tubing to retrieve food but it was smart enough to separate the pieces and keep only the part with the food and throw the rest away."
Q: "What is your favorite part of working with the Puck?"
A: "The best part of my day is when I have time to go play with him. He definitely has a unique personality. It is just really fun to interact with something you wouldn’t expect to have a personality."
Learn all about the wonderful Giant Pacific Octopus from Mystic Aquarium aquarist, Monique Glazier.
Species of the Month Podcast: Giant Pacific Octopus
Join Mystic Aquarium's Kelly Matis and MaryEllen Mateleska as they discuss the intelligence of the amazing Giant Pacific octopus.
Kelly and MaryEllen want to hear from you! Send questions, comments and suggestions for future podcast topics to [email protected].
Scientific Name: Enteroctopus deofleini
Size: African penguins range from 18 to 25 inches tall and weigh up to 11 pounds
Range/Distribution: The only penguin to breed in Africa, the African penguin ranges from Namibia to South Africa. Young penguins have been known to migrate north and west along the coastline and are found between Southern Angola, Namibia, and sometimes found off Gabon, Congo, and Mozambique, but generally reside in South Africa.
Appearance: The African penguin has a robust, torpedo-shaped body with black feathers on their back, flippers, and head while white feathers cover their front with the exception of horseshoe-shaped black stripe on the chest. Following the penguin’s first few molts a white stripe will develop around its cheek and throat. These birds have a bare patch above their eyes to assist with regulating their body temperature.
Habitat: When not hunting for food in the water, African penguins are found along rocky shores or brushy coastal areas.
Prey: African penguins feed on 25 species of fish, such as sardine and anchovy but also prey on squid and krill. A penguin may eat up to one pound of food or up to 14% of their weight.
Predators: African penguins face predation by gulls, feral cats and mongoose while nesting on land, while sharks and fur seals hunt African penguins in the water.
Life Span: The African penguin may live up to late 30 years in an aquarium or zoo but averages of 15-20 years are seen in the wild populations.
Mating Behaviors: There are no set breeding seasons for African penguins, however, most penguin pairs are monogamous and will remain together over several breeding years. The male will prepare a nest by digging a shallow burrow in sand or in brush using guano (penguin waste) and any materials nearby to complete the nest for the female to lay two eggs. Both the male and female share the nesting and chick duties, keeping the young safe from predators and warm temperatures. The chicks will hatch between 38 and 42 days and will leave the nest when they are between 60 to 130 days of age.
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