The Mysterious Blue-Blooded Sea Creature

Octopuses, those bizarre, quick and very smart cephalopods.

To this day, they seem to incorporate everything creepy and mysterious about the sea. Their long arms and otherworldly forms have inspired many film makers and writers to think of them as deep- sea monsters.  Gigantic kraken able to sink sea vessels, capture sailors from sea vessels along with many other mythical tales and films which have been told and seen. The 1955 film ‘It came from beneath the sea’ was one of many films released.

But, here are some true facts about these very intelligent and agile creatures:

Octopuses are very, very old sea creatures. The oldest know fossil dates back 296 million years, during the Carboniferous period. Researchers aren’t sure if there is an ink sack there, but the tell-tale eight arms and two eyes are visible on the fossil surface, which is on display at the Field Museum in Chicago.

Did you know that Octopuses have three hearts? Two of these hearts work solely to move blood away from the gills, while the third heart serves the purpose of keeping the vital circulation flowing through the organs.

Octopuses need to survive in the deep ocean. To do this they have evolved a copper rather than iron-based blood called hemocyanin, this turns the blood blue in colour. A copper base is much more efficient at transporting oxygen then haemoglobin (as in the human system) when water temperatures drop very low and little oxygen is present in very deep water. This adapted system is very sensitive to changes in acidity, meaning, if the water’s pH dips too low, octopuses can’t circulate enough oxygen to survive. The question then arises; what will happen to Octopus as a result of climate change-induced ocean acidification?

The plural of Octopus is octopuses. The word octopus derives from the Geek word októpus, which means “eight foot”


In the book ‘History of Animals’, which was written by Aristotle in 350 BC. He describes the octopus as being a stupid creature, which will approach a man’s hand if it is lowered into the water. It has neat and thrifty habits. It lays up stores in its nest, and, after it has consumed all edible food, it removes the skeletons, shells and sheaths of its prey from its nest. In self-defence it will eject ink at its predator. It is very quick and slimy, can crawl on land, but it can navigate through mazes with ease. Remember solutions, solve problems and take things apart with its arms. A very clever and intelligent creature with a distinct personality.

Octopus do not have tentacles, they are in correct terms referred to as ‘arms’. Each arm has its own mind and is independent from the others. Two-thirds of an octopus neurons reside in its arms, not in its head! For example; the arms can solve a problem how to open its prey, the owner of the arms (the octopus) can at the same time check out another possible food source which could prove to be another meal.  If any arm becomes totally severed from the body, it still feels pain in that severed part, a new arm will grow back in its place.

The ink doesn’t just hide the Octopus. It contains a compound called tyrosinase, which, causes a blinding irritation to the enemy when it’s sprayed into their eyes. It also has

another advantage, it garbles other creatures sense of taste and smell. This very defensive ink is so potent, in fact, that octopuses who are not quick enough to escape their own ink cloud can die. The compound called tyrosinase, helps to control the production of the natural pigment melanin in human beings.

Did you know that after mating Octopuses die? The species practice external fertilisation. Multiple males either insert their spermatophores directly into a tube-like funnel that the female uses to breathe, or he hands her the sperm directly. She always accepts the sperm with the right arm ONLY (researchers do not know why this is). After the mating process is over, which is a brief affair the male wanders off and dies. The female can lay up to 400,000 eggs, these are guarded and tended to obsessively as the female stops eating during this period of incubation. The female octopus does not starve to death during this procedure, but sadly after the eggs hatch the female body turns against itself. Her body undertakes a huge cellular breakdown, starting from the optic glands and rippling outward through all organs and tissues until eventually succumbs to her fate.

Human consumption of Octopus. They have been popular food items in East Asia, Spain, Greece, North and West Africa for centuries, now gaining popularity in the US. The Korean population consume to date the most. This is having a huge impact on octopus stocks around the globe, in fact, in Japan catches have dropped by 50 percent between 1960’s and 1980’s. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, around 270,000 tons of octopus is moved around the globe each year. This is an unsustainable fact, due to the constant moving of large fishing industries around the world and the devastating impact of catching young octopus who never get to maturity and cannot fulfil their reproduction cycle!!

Each and every one counts………….

Photo by Janet Bulmer at DiveSMART Gozo

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