Ruling the ocean with eight legs, stalking prey while hiding in plain sight, using complex brains to release crabs out of cages, and ejecting poison and midnight-blue ink, octopuses are one of the smart and most intriguing animals in the world.
The word “octopuses” comes from the Greek word meaning eight legs. Because it is Greek, not Latin, the word's plural is octopuses, not octopi. These creatures' eight legs are what make them unique and further suggest that the species is evolved.
Though it may seem difficult for some people to walk with two legs, octopuses seem to have no problem walking with eight. How they do it, however, is strange. Take spiders as a contrast; these creepy-crawlies usually move their eight legs in sets of two, almost as if they were connected by a rubber band. With the legs connected, the two sets of legs move opposite from each other. Octopuses' legs function differently--they move with no particular pattern, and their locomotion is completely random. Also, their mantle, or head, does not determine their direction of movement. They can even face one direction while moving in another. No other animal known to man is known to move like an octopus.
Octopuses' peculiar way of movement is only part of what makes them complex and intriguing animals. In fact, octopuses are smarter than mammals and birds. An experiment done by Jennifer Mather, comparative psychologist at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, recorded octopuses’ behavior by giving them clams and mussels to figure out which they prefer. The octopuses in the study chose mussels. Scientists indicate that they made this choice because mussels are easier to open. However, the octopuses switched to clams once they were put in a half shell. This shows that octopuses adapt easily and understand challenges. Further, the octopuses in the study were also able to poison the clams and mussels to weaken them, making it easier to get to their meat.
A second experiment at the Seattle Aquarium with Roland Anderson and Mather also observed octopuses’ play habits. An octopus blew jets of water at a pill bottle, thus causing the pill bottle to go over a water jet and come back to the octopus, almost like a puzzle or an activity intended merely for fun or to stretch the mind.
It makes sense that this crafty species seemingly enjoys puzzles because they have nine parts to their brain—one for each tentacle and a main one. They use their brains and sneaky skills to manipulate or play with people. For example, at the Brighton Aquarium in England about a hundred years ago, an octopus waited until guards weren’t watching to leave its tank to eat a lumpfish. Afterward, it snuck into a nearby tank, then snuck back to its original tank by the morning. Nobody knew what was happening to the fish, but eventually they caught on.
Octopuses are also unique because they eat using the toughest part of their body, the beak. It's made of keratin, the same material of which human fingernails are made. They use their beaks to crush the hard shell of their prey, who they catch with their arms. Octopuses are known to poison their prey, but only the Australian Blue-Ringed Octopus has poison strong enough to kill a human. Otherwise, every other octopus holds the potential to be either a violent or a mellow animal.
Octopuses have a tendency to hide from predators in the tropical coral reefs and oceans where they can be found under rocks or in random crevices. They can squeeze into crevices and under rocks because they are 90 percent muscle. Octopus defense is strategic and smart. Releasing ink confuses predators while an octopus gets away. They also camouflage themselves and sometimes move like eels, starfish, and other creatures to pass by predators.
Octopuses are animals nearly amazing beyond compare. Researchers suggest that they have skills not existent in any other animal known to man, and it's certainly safe to say that octopuses are out performing the average animal with only three hearts, nine brains, and no spine.