Wildlife of The Solway Firth Number 73 – The Common Octopus – Octopus Vulgaris
Wildlife of The Solway Firth Number 73 The Common Octopus – Octopus Vulgaris
This amazing animal was the first invertebrate to be protected by law in the UK (1993) and is most frequently found in shallow waters along our Southern coasts. It has a relatively short lifespan of 1-2 years, but in that time it can grow to have a tentacle span of up to a metre and weigh as much as 9 kg.
Well known for its intelligence which has been measured as broadly equivalent to that of a dog, they can for example easily learn how to unscrew lidded containers and recognise individual human faces. When we are fortunate enough to have them at the Lake district Coast Aquarium we make special efforts to interact with them and keep them occupied with new toys and puzzles, much to the amazement of onlookers!
Although they will feed on crabs and molluscs out of preference, being able to pierce hard shells with a small but strong beak that can also inject a venom to subdue their prey, they will also eat pretty much anything they can catch.
Their body has no bones so they have a remarkable ability to squeeze through small apertures and with great sucker strength they can manoeuvre short distances out of water, meaning their display in captivity has to be made very secure.
They hide effectively from predators and prey by instantly changing their colour and body texture to match their surroundings, thanks to sensors in their skin.