Gone But Not Forgotten
Mar 1, 2002
CNN story.

An octopus in a German zoo has learned to open jars of shrimp by watching zoo attendants perform the act underwater.

Frida, a five-month-old female octopus, opens the jars by pressing her body on the lid and grasping the sides with the suckers on her eight tentacles. With a succession of body twists she unscrews the lid.

"Depending on how tight the lid is, it takes her anything from 10 seconds to an hour to get it off," said Frank Mueller, head of the aquarium at the Hellabrunn Zoo. Frida opens shrimp jars before the public at feeding time twice a week.

Mueller said he taught Frida the trick after he remembered seeing octopuses showing remarkable dexterity off the coast of Morocco, where he went diving when he was younger. Frida was imported from Morocco.

"We just did it in the tank a few times and eventually she cottoned on," he said. "You won't see any other marine creatures do this. She's been at it about a month now."
There was a similar story from South Africa about 20 years ago. Sadly, I don't have a precise reference. (I do know it was published in the Sydney Morning Herald in their now defunct Stay in Touch column.)

Apparently some South African zookeeper or biologist or something had trained an octopus to open a bottle of crabs to get its food. If I can locate the reference, I'll post it here.

Just goes to show that you have to keep an eye on those cephalopods.
We had an octopus that can do that right here in Portsmouth (England.). I speak in past tense as the octopus was situated in a Sea Life centre in South Sea which has now changed ownership and name, to the Blue Reef I think?
The story was featured on our regional news on TV. Apparently food was put in the jar to give it something to do as they are apparently highly intelligent, and to give it some effort to catch it's prey like it would in the wild.
I will Google on it and see if I can come up with anything.
This kind of thing always gives me The Fear:

Fri 26 Mar 2004

12:06pm (UK)

Puzzles Keep Giant Octopus on Its Toes

By Sam Marsden, PA News

Aquarium staff are keeping a playful giant octopus out of mischief with a specially-designed puzzle box.

Titan, a giant Pacific octopus with 9ft tentacles, must unlock the clear plastic “octobox” in his tank to get at the food inside.

Student Paul Martin, who invented the box, is now devising even more difficult locking mechanisms to test the huge octopus.

David Waines, deputy manager of the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay, Cornwall, said: “Titan has already mastered the basic opening mechanism and has moved on to puzzling out a latch which has to be released.

“The ultimate test is when we add a lock and separate key which he will have to manipulate.”

Titan has already learned to unscrew jars. He is also well known at the aquarium for his curiosity and his habit of grabbing staff’s arms when they open his tank.

The giant Pacific, which is found from Japan to southern California, is the world’s largest species of octopus.


The aquarium's web page is here:


and the page on this news is here:


That is one fantastic picture on that page!! I think I've pooed :(

As well as being the largest, the giant Pacific is also among the cleverest members of the cephalopod family. Individuals living in aquariums have been filmed sneaking out at night to raid nearby fish-filled displays.
Oh I love it! :D

Thanks Emps, the octopus is my favorite type of animal. But why does it give you "the Fear"? Because they're smart or just because of their appearance?
Why are we still amazed at animals' ability to learn.
With the squirrel programmes of the 1980s and the sign-language gorrilas we should now realise that the only real difference between us and them is physical.
Anyone who has had apet that they have spent any time with (I don't just mean throwing food in a bowl once a day.) will realise what I mean. Dogs going to the window at 4pm looking for the kids coming home, standing refusing to move from in front of the telly until they see their lead etc.
I'm pretty sure that if someone took the trouble, they could train an ape to play chess at a level to beat the average non-grandmaster. (Maybe the Sinbad story was based on fact.)
It has also been proven that octopuses can learn from observing the action of other octopuses. An octopus in one tank was trained that if it hit a red ball it would be rewarded with food, whereas it wouldn't if it hit a white ball. Octopuses in adjoining tanks took less time to learn this than by trial and error, suggesting they have the basics of conceptual thought.

They are indeed very clever beasties, if not slightly scary looking.
Bannik said:
But why does it give you "the Fear"? Because they're smart or just because of their appearance?

It goes back a decade or so when my firends and I indulged in a collective delusion for a few years about "The Attack of the Fish People" (in a Kraken Wakes stylee). I think it started with the Fish Man who would go around the local pub selling fish products. For some reason we decided he was actually a largish octupus in a latex human suit spying on us to prepare the way for the invasion - we were covinced we could see the seam. Over the years the quality of the suit improved until by the third version you could hardly see the seam and he nearly looked human. For a number of months my best friend wore an old fishing hat out as we'd decided it was scaring the Fish People off and we came awfully close to freaking out when the hat went missing. Basically anything would make us convicned the invasion was immeninet and if there was a documentary on intelligent octopi then we'd be making panicky phone calls to each other and I reckon once I pass this info around it will still cause some worry ;)

We did feel a bit bad when the Fish Man died a few years later but by then we'd shaken the delusion off, I hate to think what would have happened if we were still convicned he was an octopus (I doubt trying to remove his latex human suit at the funeral or digging up his corpse would have gone down well).

[edit: that said I am quite interested in getting an octopus ;) ]

Bannik said:
I'm glad I asked. :D

I think I'd rather you hadn't ;)

The explanation is a bit sketchy but it did make more sense at the time - its was more of a running joke that got rapidly out of hand and although we never lost sight of the fact that it wasn't real it got a bit touch and go ;)

Fri 21 May 2004
1:30pm (UK)

Fisherman Claims Largest Octopus Catch in British Waters

By Sam Marsden, PA News

A fisherman has caught an octopus believed to be the largest of its kind found in British waters.

John Tonkin, 33, of Cadgwith, west Cornwall, accidentally caught the 80cm long curled octopus in a crab pot off the Lizard on Tuesday.

He kept the octopus alive in a bucket of water and took it to Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium, where it is now recovering in a display tank.

Senior aquarist Matt Slater confirmed that it appeared to be the largest curled octopus found off the UK.

“We’ve checked all reference books and the largest recorded size we can find anywhere is 60cms so it looks like this could be a new record,” he said.

Curled octopuses are so-called because of their slender, tapering arms which curl at the end.

February 10, 2005

Octopus Borrows Vertebrate Strategy for Lifting

When it comes time to perform difficult tasks, octopuses do their best impression of humans, according to a new report. Results published today in Nature indicate that the soft-bodied creatures move their arms as if they were jointed to lift objects.

German Sumbre of the Hebrew University in Israel and his colleagues analyzed a hundred videotapes of octopuses using their flexible arms to fetch food items. They found that the animals formed "quasi-joints" that resembled those of the shoulders, elbows and wrists of humans. When an octopus grasped a food reward with its suckers and brought it toward its mouth, these joints formed at points that divided the arm into three sections. Two of the sections were of similar lengths, which remained relatively constant over all the trials. The set-up is similar to the human arm, which has upper and forearms of roughly equal lengths, the scientists say.

There are a large number of ways for a flexible arm to transport food, so it is surprising that the octopus uses a method so similar to the limbs of animals with rigid skeletons, the authors note. Their findings, they conclude, suggest "that an articulated limb may provide an optimal solution for achieving precise, point-to-point movements."

Great to see the octopuss getting some good publicity

They are extremely inteligent, have a very advanced form of communication, have been seen to lie/decieve and are playful - if they were as pretty as dolphins they would be in far less platters.

And I know all this because I wanted to be a zoo vet, and learnt everything I could about animals - then worked at a vets for a week as a school kid - at the first sign of blood I decided to find another career - and now I make computer games <sob, sob, sob>

anyway - octopus and squid - they're great
When I was at the Sealife Centre in Brighton about a year back they had a daily event there called the Octopus Challenge, where they'd get their giant pacific octopus to open jars and things. Unfortunately I didn't see it 'cos it didn't happen for some reason the day I was there, maybe out of season or something.
Camouflaged octopuses 'walk' on two tentacles
19:00 24 March 2005
NewScientist.com news service
Emma Young

If you are using your limbs to disguise yourself, how do you flee danger without giving yourself away? The answer, when you have eight arms, is to use six arms for disguise and to walk across on the seafloor on the other two.

That is the extraordinary behaviour observed for the first time in two species of octopus by Christine Huffard's team from the University of California, Berkeley, US.

Defying the notion that bipedal motion requires muscles attached to a rigid skeleton, the octopuses used the strong, flexible muscles in their back arms to walk across the seabed when pursued by camera-wielding biologists.

The two species have slightly different strategies. Octopus marginatus from Indonesia wraps itself into a ball while walking, perhaps to imitate a coconut rolling with the current.

Tiny Octopus aculeatus of Australia holds up six of its arms to disguise itself as a clump of seaweed, while walking at up to 14 centimetres per second - faster than it can manage using more than two arms.

"This camouflage is so good, it's easy to lose sight of the animal," Huffard says. Many other octopus species have back arms that might be strong enough to allow walking, she says.

"I have never ever heard of any behaviour remotely similar to this," says Steve O'Shea, a cephalopod expert at the Auckland Institute of Technology in New Zealand. "This is yet another example of how little we know about these creatures."

Journal reference: Science (vol 307, p 1927)
The amazing thing about Octopus camouflague techniques are their ability to change not merely the colour of their flesh (within a huge range) but the texture via capiliary control. I watched a documentary where thy were seen impersonating a plethora of different things from Rays to Cuttlefish to coral.

Remarkable creatures.
Emperor said:
Although we probably never believed in it consistently we certainly bought into it a number of times and I remember we were both awfully nervous when there was a wildlife documentary on about the intelligence of octopi and their ability to squeeze through small space (like letter boxes!!!).

I just read yesterday, another related observation concerning the intelligence of octopi --- that they can mimic algae and sneak away while "walking" on two tentacles.

story here:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/20 ... 331571.htm
Australian Octopus silly walks

Australian octopus 'walks' on two tentacles
Two little species of Indian Ocean octopus, including one from Australia, can tuck up six of their tentacles while running on the other two, US researchers say.

They can use their other six arms to disguise themselves from predators, either as rolling coconuts or clumps of floating algae.

The discovery by a team of researchers at the University of California Berkeley and Universitas Sam Ratulangi in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, was reported in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

It discredits theories that walking requires hard bones and skeletal muscle, as octopuses have neither.

"We have observed octopuses that do indeed walk," Berkeley's Christine Huffard and colleagues write in their report.

"Individuals of Octopus marginatus (from Indonesia) and Octopus (Abdopus) aculeatus (from Australia) move bipedally along sand using a rolling gait," they said.

"This locomotion differs from their normal crawling, which usually involves several arms sprawling around the body, using the suckers to push and pull the animal along."

The researchers have videotaped the animals, one the size of a walnut and the other the size of an apple, "walking".

Walking on two legs, or arms, makes sense for an octopus, Ms Huffard's team said.

"When an octopus moves quickly, it becomes visually conspicuous and must employ unique behaviours to evade its predator's search image," they wrote.

"By walking, both O. marginatus and O. aculeatus are able to move quickly while using six of their arms to remain disguised: O. marginatus perhaps as a rolling coconut and O. aculeatus as a clump of algae tiptoeing away."
Last Update: Friday, March 25, 2005. 10:38am (AEST)

Standby for nature documentary footage with an interesting soundtrack...

The camo technique sounds reasonable.
This thread scares the wee wee out of me but I have to post this here so.....

'Walking' octopus inspires soft robots

The surprise discovery that octopi can "walk" along the sea bed on two tentacles has inspired scientists seeking to create of a new generation of soft, flexible robots.

Two species of octopus have been observed moving in an upright bipedal stride since the discovery was announced in March this year.

And scientists at the University of California at Berkeley believe they can develop artificial muscles for use in a new field of soft robotics using the studies of the octopus's movement.

"Each arm rolls along the suckers and pushes the animal back, and then the other arm touches down, rolls along the suckers, and pushes the animal back again," biologist Chrissy Hufford explained to BBC World Service's Science In Action programme.

"They flatten part of their arm like a tank tread, and roll backwards on it. They make a functional foot, even though they don't have an anatomic foot."

Rescue robots

While the octopus walks on two arms, the other six are pulled up under the body.

Importantly, the movement is much more fluid than in creatures with a skeleton.

"That's why it was such a surprise to see - because every other example of bipedal locomotion before had involved the support of a rigid skeleton," Dr Hufford added.

"As we know, octopi and other cephalopods don't have anything rigid in their arms - they are supported by bands of muscle... that allows them flexibility, but also some support."

This extreme flexibility and strength is of great interest to biologist Bob Full, who believes the octopus is an excellent model for how robots that move might be built without hard parts.

A prototype of a segment of what might become an octopus-like arm has already been built.

It is a "rolled" artificial muscle - a tube with a spring inside, into which electric current can be put.

The tube can shorten, lengthen, and bend in all directions.

"If you think about them linking end to end, you can imagine ultimately what results from that," Dr Full explained.

"You can get a segment that's longer and longer, and begins to look eventually very much like the arm of an octopus."

This artificial arm currently relies on metal for support - but Dr Full believes that eventually the support will come from bands of muscle alone, as in a real octopus.

As one band of muscle compresses, another is stretched, providing strength.

With no hard parts, the creature can squeeze through tiny spaces.

"That's the advantage of soft robotics," he added.

"Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to function as a search and rescue robot, to be able to go into areas - after an earthquake, after a car accident, during a fire - and move into spaces that no other robot could get into."

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/t ... 617291.stm

Published: 2005/06/07 12:45:11 GMT

Soft robotics? Not really hard science is it?

Still, crackingly good idea. :D Ideal for the situations outlined.
This thread scares the wee wee out of me but I have to post this here so.....

I wouldn't worry. I once did a U turn in the lobby of Brighton Sea Life Centre when I saw the photos of the Giant Pacific Octopus they have there, well sort of the underside view like a huge suckery star stuck to the glass :shock: :shock:

Actually they're not too bad once you get over the eeeu value of their utter alien-ness. Mostly they sit there and don't move for hours on end, and they're easily scared.
BEWARE!!!! The Walktopus.

Octopuses occasionally stroll around on two arms, UC Berkeley biologists report

By Robert Sanders, Media Relations | 24 March 2005

BERKELEY – Two species of tropical octopus have evolved a neat trick to avoid predators - they lift up six of their arms and walk backward on the other two.

The Indonesian coconut octopus, Octopus marginatus, scoots along the ocean floor using the tips of its arms. (Video by Bob Cranston/Sea Studios, Inc.; Rights protected clip. Not to be copied.)

Octopus movie clipMore video: The octopus Octopus aculeatus maintains its algae-like camouflage while walking backwards on two arms, using the outer part of each arm like a conveyor belt. (Video by Crissy Huffard/UC Berkeley)
1.2Mb QuickTime file
This first report of bipedal behavior in octopuses, written by University of California, Berkeley, researchers, will be published in the March 25 issue of Science.

When walking, these octopuses use the outer halves of their two back arms like tank treads, alternately laying down a sucker edge and rolling it along the ground. In Indonesia, for example, the coconut octopus looks like a coconut tiptoeing along the ocean bottom, six of its arms wrapped tightly around its body.

UC Berkeley graduate student Crissy Huffard clocked the two-legged speed of one coconut octopus at two and a half inches per second, while a second individual zoomed along, backwards, at five and a half inches per second. This is faster than they can crawl, but probably slower than they jet around.

The other type of octopus, which camouflages itself as algae in tropical waters from Indonesia to Australia, looks like a sea monster scooting along the sea floor on two legs. Huffard filmed this creature off Australia's Great Barrier Reef easily rolling over rocks and other obstacles.

"This behavior is very exciting," said Huffard, who first noted it five years ago in the coconut octopus but only recently was able to capture both types of octopuses on film. "This is the first underwater bipedal locomotion I know of, and the first example of hydrostatic bipedal movement."
The octopus Octopus aculeatus walks along the floor of a tank
Like a weird sea monster, the octopus Octopus aculeatus walks along the floor of a tank while maintaining its camouflage as a piece of algae. This specimen was captured along Australia's Great Barrier Reef. (Photo by Crissy Huffard/UC Berkeley)

Huffard and coauthor Robert Full, professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, think that this bipedal walking is a strategy octopuses use to backpedal away from predators while remaining camouflaged. Octopuses camouflage themselves by changing both color and shape, but when startled and forced to move quickly, they have to give up their camouflage.

Not so when walking.

"This bipedal behavior allows them to get away and remain cryptic," said Huffard.

An octopus is basically a water-filled balloon, but with the fluid contained in muscle cells rather than an open cavity. It keeps its shape not with an internal or external skeleton but by hydrostatic pressure, sometimes called a hydrostatic skeleton or muscular hydrostat. Normally, it crawls over the bottom of the ocean, pushing and pulling with the suckers on its eight arms, or jets backwards through the water. All these movements are accomplished through muscles that squeeze and bend the fluid-filled arms and body.

Full said he was "blown away" when Huffard showed him video of the octopuses last year. He urged her to obtain more video that could be used to more clearly see how they walk, and encouraged her to publish the observations. Full, who looks at many types of animal locomotion and seeks to determine how animals control such movements, sees a revolutionary new principle in how the octopus uses its arms - one that could be used in making soft, squishy robots.

"Understanding behavior like this could usher in a new frontier of 'soft' robotics," in contrast to the rigid robots common today, he said.

"New artificial muscles that can stiffen at will could reproduce this walking behavior," said Full. "The wonderful thing about soft robotics is that it's infinitely adaptable, unlike the few degrees of freedom of rigid robots."

Huffard first noticed the coconut octopus, Octopus marginatus, dancing along the sand in 2000, while helping a film crew obtain octopus footage off the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. The octopus, with a head about two inches long, lives on the sandy bottom in water some 20 to 30 meters (60 to 100 feet) deep, among lots of sunken coconuts, and even hides out in the shells of coconuts, drawing two halves around it to hide.

Its weird walking behavior, no doubt noticed by numerous other divers, has apparently never been analyzed in the scientific literature, she said.

"We know so little about these animals," Huffard said, noting that only 200 of perhaps 300 species of octopus from around the world have been described. She herself is writing up descriptions of five new octopuses, one from Hawaii and four from Tonga.

She filed away her observations about O. marginatus, however, to concentrate on her thesis, which involves the behavior of another Indonesian octopus, Octopus (Abdopus) aculeatus. This creature with a head the size of a walnut inhabits the intertidal zone, foraging along sandy bottoms among grasses and hiding out in tidepools or burying itself in the sand at low tide. To camouflage itself, it sometimes coils its two front arms and raises them in a pose that somewhat resembles algae.

Two years ago, while Huffard was visiting her thesis advisor, UC Berkeley integrative biology professor Roy Caldwell, on Lizard Island 45 miles north of Cairns, Australia, she decided to take a look at local members of that same species. She snorkeled out to capture one and, after putting it in a tank at the research station, was surprised to see it also walking on two arms.

"It seemed like it was walking on little conveyor belts," she said. She suspects that the reason she never saw this behavior in O. aculeatus in Indonesia, despite some thousand hours of snorkeling over five years, is that in Indonesia, the currents are often too strong for such behavior.

Both Huffard and Full are interested in how these octopuses control their unusual form of bipedal locomotion. Recent articles shed light on this. Israeli scientists have reported that octopus arms execute incredibly complex curling and bending motions even when cut off. Apparently a nerve ganglion in each arm can send clock-like signals down the arm to produce rhythmic movements, such as bends propagating down the arm, irrespective of whether there is a head and brain to control them. Similar movements seem to be involved in two-legged walking.

"These are stereotyped movements that don't need feedback from the brain," Huffard said.

"A lot of behavior is built into the ganglia of each octopus arm, so that seemingly complex behavior is really simple," Full added. Similar controls could make a soft robotic arm a lot easier to control than it would seem, and make it feasible to build an octopus robot that walks. An article in the Feb. 11, 2005, issue of Nature revealed just such a mechanism.

Huffard's research was supported by an American Malacological Society Student Research Grant. Full is supported by the National Science Foundation. A third co-author on the paper is Farnis Boneka of the Department of Fisheries and Marine Science, Universitas Sam Ratulangi, Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

link with video
I know someone with an avatar which is a gif image of the octopus walking. Let me post....

Thanks for the pic. That's just freaky. :wince:
It would be cool if squid could float in the air like in Mario Bros., though.
sudi5 said:
Emperor said:
Although we probably never believed in it consistently we certainly bought into it a number of times and I remember we were both awfully nervous when there was a wildlife documentary on about the intelligence of octopi and their ability to squeeze through small space (like letter boxes!!!).

I just read yesterday, another related observation concerning the intelligence of octopi --- that they can mimic algae and sneak away while "walking" on two tentacles.

story here:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/20 ... 331571.htm
I love octopus stories and I would keep octopi if I could! My favourite story is of an expert on aquatic pets who was asked about keeping said octopi in an aquarium. He explained that you have to keep the lid firmly wedged if not glued in place as they can escape through the smallest gaps imaginable. The hopes of you catching your octopus are slim, he explained, if it is raining outside- as octopi can get surprisingly far so long as it's wet out! The idea of seeing fleeing octopi in the gutters, triggering suspicions of acid flashbacks, tickled me for ages.
kirmildew said:
I love octopus stories and I would keep octopi if I could!

Octopi kept in captivity are in great danger of dying of boredom and the way the large public and research aquariums combat this is to put the octopus' food into more and more hand-to-open containers - like Chiense puzzles.

The trouble is that you need a new and more complicated container every day or two, or else our tentacled friend sez, in effect, "been here, done this - BORING!" and goes off-feed..