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Giant Pacific Octopus

The giant Pacific octopus is like a clan of ancient gods and present-day superheroes rolled into one. It has the suctioning force of Spiderman, the brains of Athena, the stretching capacity of Elastigirl, the speed of Mercury and the determination of Wonder Woman.

While legends claim this octopus spans 30 feet and weighs 600 pounds, adults are typically 16 feet from tip to tip and weigh between 50 and 90 pounds. Still, the giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) is one of the largest octopuses in the world.  It primarily occupies the Pacific coast from southern California to Alaska and only lives three to five years.

Giant octopuses have highly developed brains and an array of amazing skills. They can change colors within seconds of being provoked. Two rows of suckers on each of its eight arms give the animal a sturdy grip: It requires a 40-pound tug to free a three-pound octopus. These suckers also act as tongues and hands, useful sensory tools when poking around for prey. Their boneless bodies enable them to squeeze into snug spaces. They can propel backwards at torpedo speed, or squirt a dark, befuddling ink to escape predators. They can pull stubborn prey (i.e. clams and crabs) apart with their arms; bite them open with their parrotlike beaks; or drill a hole and secrete liquids that corrode the shell and weaken the prey. The octopus in Waters of the World can even unscrew jars, as our aquarists have shown through enrichment exercises that stimulate his cognitive and hunting skills.

A female will use a natural nook or small cave as a safe haven and brooding chamber. After laying about 50,000 eggs, she tends to them with unwavering vigilance for about six months. Due to a hormonal change at spawning, she (and the male) stop eating. The female lives long enough to tend the eggs, completing her cleaning, aerating and protecting rituals. She dies shortly after the eggs hatch.

If the giant Pacific octopus won its own superhero status, what would you name it? How about Octomarvel?


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