By Danny Beckwith
International Octopus Day is part of a week-long celebration about cephalopods, the “head-footed” animals such as octopus, squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus, called Cephalopod Awareness Days. This celebration of creatures with arms and tentacles started in 2007 by members of TONMO, The Octopus News Magazine Online forum. Though it is not yet proclaimed by any governing body, these days are designed to increase the awareness of the world’s cephalopods as well as their conservation. Octopus have eight arms while squid and cuttlefish have eight arms and two tentacles, so we celebrate these awareness days beginning October (the tenth month) 8 each year! Since there are more than just squid and octopus in the cephalopod group, more days were added to include their relatives and the popular culture that surrounds these mysterious and awe-inspiring animals!
- October 8 – Octopus Day, for all the eight-armed species
- October 9 – Nautilus Night, a time for all the lesser-known extant cephalopods
- October 10 – Squid Day/Cuttlefish Day, or Squittleday, covering the tentacular species
- October 11 – Kraken Day, for all the fantastical cephalopods of myth, movies, literature and legend.
To celebrate this special day, here are eight (get it?) facts about cephalopods and other animals that live with them as featured in the aquarium’s Hall of Fishes.
Giant Pacific Octopus (Tank 5) – The Giant Pacific Octopus is the largest and longest-lived octopus species. They average about 16 feet in length, 110 pounds, and can live up to four years. They can change the color and texture of their skin and are highly intelligent.
Crabs, Prawns (Tank 6) – Crabs, lobsters, and other crustaceans are some of the favorite prey items of octopuses. Octopuses use their hard beaks to break through the exoskeletons of these creatures to reach the soft flesh inside.
Pier Pilings (Tank 14) – Many cephalopods eat clams and mussels. Once they have broken the shell, the octopuses use a rough tongue called a radula to scrape out the insides. Many octopuses have a compound in their saliva that paralyzes prey.
Kelp Holdfast (Tank 17) – Being masters of disguise, octopuses can hide in many places, including the holdfast of giant kelp. The holdfast, which looks like roots, can be the home to many other invertebrates. These invertebrates make great prey for octopuses.
Tropical Seas (Tank 26) – The blue-ringed octopus, found in the western Pacific and shallow reefs off of Australia, has 50-60 bright blue rings that pulsate with color, warning predators of its venomous bite.
Cuttlefish (Tank 31) – Cuttlefish are relatives of the octopus. They can change color rapidly to communicate warnings, mood changes, courtship displays, and for blending in with their environment. Cuttlefish have eight arms and two feeding tentacles.
Nautilus (Tank 32) – Chambered Nautilus are another relative of the octopus. Nautilus can have more than 90 tentacles to taste and touch the world around them. The nautilus is the only cephalopod that has an external shell.
Lionfish (Tank 33) – The wunderpus, or mimic octopus, can alter its color, shape, and movements to look like the venomous lionfish in this exhibit.
See how many you can spot on your next visit!