• It's "octopuses" rather than octopii -- the Latin plural form doesn't really apply -- and most can survive easily for about a half an hour. There have been unconfirmed reports of them hanging on, in a half-dead and asphyxiated way, for up to an hour. As a side note, part of the facility where I work includes a marine lab. They have famously taken to closing the tanks where the octopuses are kept with precisely fitted lids and padlocks, since the octopuses were able to open everything else. The octopuses then tended to go on a nightly wander; many simply went into the fish and crustacean tanks to go hunting, but a few seemed to be more interested in exploration. The first people in in the mornings had to do an octopus count, then check for missing ones crammed up underneath desk drawers and in the backs of book shelves. They can squeeze through any opening through which they can fit their hard beak, and they bloody well get _everywhere_. And when they start to feel stressed, sometimes they just look for a dark place to hide, rather than going back to a tank of water. People who keep octopuses are advised to have tightly fitted lids on the tanks at all times -- for good reason. How did an invertebrate get so smart? It's a good question, especially since their brains are built nothing at all like ours. One line of thought goes: their preferred diet involves finding small crunchy things which hide in inaccessible places and defend themselves fiercely -- so the puzzle-solving abilities which go with winkling small crunchy things out of inaccessible places and taking them apart without sustaining damage to one's own vulnerable, unarmored arms, probably had something to do with it. Beyond that, it seems like the drive to winkle things out has given them a strong motivation to open things and explore new territory (including dry-land furniture, alas) whenever they get a chance, even when they're well fed. Or especially when they're well fed, since then they have energy to spare. It has also been pointed out that individuals of the same species might end up in extremely different physical environments, so that level of behavioral (as well as physical) flexibility could be very useful in learning about where they are and how to cope with it. They don't have a lot of social complexity, unlike most "intelligent" animals, but they HAVE been demonstrated to learn how to open puzzle boxes and jars with tricky lids in order to get treats inside, just by watching another octopus do it. (That is, it may take them 7 or 8 trials to learn how to open a jar with food in it, if they are doing it alone; but if they have a chance to watch another octopus puzzle it out, they only take 1 or 2 tries when it's their turn.) Such learning-by-observation rather than learning-by-experimentation is usually taken to mean a higher level of intelligence. Cats, for example, can't do it, and dogs are very bad at it; some parrots, elephants and various primates can do that, though. They also seem to have some understanding of "it's ok to do this"/"I shouldn't do that" -- when they are given crabs in their own tank, at feeding times, they make no effort to hide the crab shells when they're done. When they go out on after-dark covert raids to crustacean tanks to help themselves, though, they often hide the crab shells carefully, completely buried under gravel or stacked in dark corners behind filters or even in something else's tank. Little sods. Which does indicate some awareness of other creatures as agents which make judgement about their actions, though. Given their general lack of social complexity, that one IS a puzzle; usually awareness of other individuals who might or might not know things depending on whether you let them see, goes with relatively complex social orders where the manipulation of other individuals in the group is important. As well as finding their own food, though, they do have to deal with a world which is full of things which eat _them_; so maybe an awareness of awareness makes sense after all. So, I don't know all the answers to that one. They're weird little beasts. For more about them, you can start with the Wikipedia article (, but a couple of other things you might like are this Discovery article ( and this more skeptical view of cephalopod intelligence (
  • until they dry up. because they don't need to filter oxygen out of water, so they can stay up on earth as long as they like
  • @lynnenorth: It's not "ocopuses," either. That's made up. The correct plural is "octopenes," because "octopus" is Latin.
  • Never heard of octopenes...I am not an etymologist though. However, I am really pretty sure that the proper plural for octopus is octopodes.
  • I thought the plural of octopus was octopoda?
  • 10 minutes

Copyright 2023, Wired Ivy, LLC

Answerbag | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy