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Meet Sawyer: New Octopus Named by Shedd Aquarium Guests

During last week of June, guests voted for their favorite name for the cephalopod

July 07, 2021

Aquarist Eve Barr gives an enrichment toy to an octopus.

Shedd Aquarium today revealed the winning name for the new resident in its Oceans exhibit – a giant Pacific octopus. For one week, all guests who attended Octopus: Blue Planet II 4D Experience® had an opportunity to vote, choosing between five preselected aquatic-themed names. After over 3,000 votes were cast at the aquarium the winning name is Sawyer.

The winning choice, Sawyer, honors Ernie Sawyer who was a senior aquarist at Shedd Aquarium that retired last year. It is a meaningful choice because he was dedicated to the care and welfare of the animals in the Oceans exhibit for many years.

This is the first time Shedd has asked the public to help name an octopus, though the public has helped name several animals in the past, including beluga whales, dolphins, penguins, and more.

Through their unique behaviors, adaptations, and biology, animals like the giant Pacific octopus inspire millions of guests each year to consider their role in protecting our shared blue planet. Guests can see the newly named octopus exploring its exhibit, using its dexterous tentacles to investigate puzzles and enrichment devices, and even may be lucky enough to catch a feeding session with its caretakers.

Guests can still attend Octopus: Blue Planet II 4D Experience®, powered by ComEd, by purchasing an add-on to their online ticket, a $4.95 upgrade per guest ($2.95 for members). The multisensory experience offers guests a window into an octopus’ life beneath the waves, and its various interactions with its aquatic neighbors, including pyjama sharks and sally lightfoot crabs.

BACKGROUND: Well-known for its ability to shoot ink and change color for camouflage, the giant Pacific octopus is truly giant–with arms spanning on average around 14-feet-long. Each arm has 280 suckers of various sizes that connect to its central nervous system, and allows the octopus to taste and smell, in addition to being able to feel, grasp, release, rotate in its environment with its eight limbs. Their eight arms can even perform several separate tasks simultaneously!

Enrichment at Shedd is an integral part of the animal care program. It encompasses a variety of ways of providing animals with mental or physical activities to encourage their natural behaviors. At Shedd, the octopus is offered varied activities for enrichment, including an assortment of toys, treats and puzzles as a means of engaging their natural survival and hunting strategies.

VISUALS: High-resolution visuals of a giant Pacific octopus at Shedd are available for download: https://personal.filesanywhere.com/fs/v.aspx?v=8e6b6b895d5f76aba897.
Credit: Shedd Aquarium/Brenna Hernandez