The Rainbow Blanket Octopus

The aliens have landed.

The Pacific and the other oceans (welcome newly named Southern Ocean) are stacked with treasures beyond imagination but are as real as can be. Here is one of my favorites.

This is a physically big example of the genus. How big? Very hard to say because it might look like its a couple of feet across but it is so elastic that it can triple in size or more and then unfurl a billowing flag that waves in the current and changes colors rapidly like a Vegas Cher spectacular. This mollusk, like all octopuses (the pros don’t say octopi), has no protective shell and uses cunning along with split second shape, color and texture transformations to elude predators. And it has been pretty successful as the basic model rolled off the assembly line some 300 million years ago.

Note the rows of false eyes

This animal can also detach the blanket letting it float free to confound the predators and grow a new then one. Octopuses have so many strange and different ways of being that they might be as alien as anything we would find on another planet. They have nine brains. One for each leg and another in the head. Like insects, each leg has a certain amount of autonomy essentially making its own decisions all the while respecting the central authority. The United States of America was similarly constructed with some slave state arms and abolitionist arms.  We say that George Washington was the father of our country. Well, father, look at us now.

But the octopus doesn’t know from politics. They are, however, so intelligent that they have been widely reported to know and react to individual people and are so flexible that a 40 pounder can squish through a 2 inch hole. There is a terrific book about octopuses called the Soul of an Octopus and of course the wildly seductive film My Octopus Teacher.

One of the most beautiful stories ever told

The blanket octopus has some other startling characteristics. The males are between 10,000 and 40,000 smaller than the females; this is called sexual body size dimorphism and this animal holds the record. When they mate the male holds up a sperm packet at the end of one of its arms and the female snaps the arm off. This animal is also immune to the sting of a Portuguese man o war an animal similar to but not a jellyfish. In fact, it isn’t even a single organism but is rather a siphonophore which is a colony of separate individual parts though it is still a single species. I know what you’re thinking…that this sounds like a polypoid zooid hydrozoan and you would be correct.

These creature sail across the oceans lookin for trouble

When the female blanket octopuses are tiny they are subject to being someone’s dinner. To this they object so they have developed a survival strategy unlike almost any other animal

They are strapped and are downright gangsta. The young hover in the tentacles of the aforementioned man of war and snap off a tight length of stinger with its poison tip. They brandish this lightsaber at animals that come too close and even hunt with it. Tiny samurai. One can just read their tiny nine minds as a shrimp floats too close, “Come to daddy, shrimpski! I’ma gonna take you out like I’m wackin a kitten with a sock-full of nickels.”

And speaking of gansta. I would advise this young woman to take the octopus as seriously as I do.

Hey, it’s an octopus eat kitten world, right?

Other animals do use weapons like chimps who use sticks and stones to break my bones. And this elephant ain’t takin no prisoners.

‘Lookout, Dave!”

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1 Comment

  • That is one of the coolest creatures I ever seen Amazing what it can do
    I can see how you could get attached to that
    Again and always Thanx

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