The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: Cephalopod

The Birth and Soul of an Octopus as Told in a New Book and Captured on Film

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The Soul of an Octopus is from the the author of the bestselling memoir The Good Good Pig, by Sy Montgomery.

In The Soul of an Octopus Sy Montgomery explores the emotional and physical world of the octopus—a surprisingly complex, intelligent, and spirited creature—and the remarkable connections it makes with humans.

Montgomery’s popular 2011 Orion magazine piece, “Deep Intellect,” about her friendship with a sensitive, sweet-natured octopus named Athena and the grief she felt at her death, went viral, indicating the widespread fascination with these mysterious, almost alien-like creatures.

Since then Sy has practiced true immersive journalism, from New England aquarium tanks to the reefs of French Polynesia and the Gulf of Mexico, pursuing these wild, solitary shape-shifters. Octopuses have varied personalities and intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. Published in May of 2015, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds.

Check out the remarkable up close video (below) which documents the birth of octopuses, from their carefully guarded egg sacks.

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Watch a Pair of Giant Pacific Octopuses Square Up off the California Coast on Nautilus Live

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Screenshot from Nautilus Live’s video (below).

Octopuses are primarily solitary creatures, and don’t tend to make regular or voluntary rendezvouses, apart from when it comes time to mate.

So when they do cross paths or trespass on others’ turf, things can get tense, and clearly, these two Giant Pacific Octopuses (Enteroctopus dofleini) weren’t all too pleased to make one another’s acquaintance.

This isn’t something scientists–or anyone, necessarily–are fortunate enough to witness often, as evidenced by the ooh-ing, awe-ing and wow-ing commentary in Nautilus Live‘s video below.

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Behold the Cunning Tactic of the Wily, Larger Pacific Striped Octopus

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Screenshot from UC Berkeley’s YouTube video (below).

Most octopuses pounce on their prey, one fell swoop, like raptors. The larger Pacific striped octopus takes a slier, more cunning approach.

To hunt this shrimp, this octopus (referred to as the “LPSO” by the California Academy of Sciences–science has yet to give this peculiar creature a name) dangles its tentacle before an unwitting shrimp in the way an anglerfish tempts prey with its lure, which functions like a baited hook. Once the little unwitting crustacean is intrigued, it’s game over; the cephalopod pounces, and the shrimp, distracted, is hopeless.

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A Subsea Arms Race? Amidst Turf Disputes, Australian Octopuses Deploy Shells, Rocks and Seaweed

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Above: Octopuses tangle in Australia’s Jervis Bay. Photo: Peter Godfrey-Smith (CUNY and University of Sydney), David Scheel (Alaska Pacific University), Stefan Linquist (University of Guelph) and Matthew Lawrence.

Biologists are unsure of the status of the world’s octopus populations. Being heavily dispersed, generally solitary creatures, they’re practically impossible to count.

In Jervis Bay, Australia, there’s no need for a tally. The common Sydney octopus, also known as the gloomy octopus (Octopus tetricus), has become so crowded that researchers are filming scuffles involving several individuals at a time, presumably over territory.

Conflicts seem to be escalating so much that they are making projectiles of objects like rocks and shells and launching them at one another with surprising precision, a behavior that appears to have been previously undocumented.

Watch video footage below:

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PBS’ “Big Blue Live” Tonight: A Multi-day and Live Affair in Celebration of the Monterey Bay

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Humpback whale in the Monterey Bay, California. Photo courtesy of Cathy Munsch.

Editor’s Note: A few years ago, Scuttlefish writer Carolyn Sotka and Dr. Stephen R. Palumbi authored a terrific book, The Death and Life of the Monterey Bay: A Story of Revival. The book was inspired by the deep human and natural history of the Monterey Bay and its rich, ecological tapestry. But it wasn’t always like it is today. Over hundreds of years, there was serial exploitation of marine animals that weakened and disrupted the health and resilience of the Bay – beginning with whaling and otter hunts and through the intense boom and bust of the sardine fishery. Tonight PBS will launch Big Blue Live, a unique 3-day TV event. Watch the broadcast and read the book about one of the most amazing places on earth, the Monterey Bay. 

PBS and BBC joined forces to bring you an event inspired by the ocean and unlike anything you have seen before. Big Blue Live debuts tonight, August 31 – September 2, 2015 on PBS. This live television and online broadcast program will celebrate one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Monterey Bay, California.

While Monterey Bay is full of life year-round, this program focuses on a once-a-year phenomenon where humpback whales, blue whales, sea lions, dolphins, elephant seals, sea otters, great white sharks, and shearwaters all converge in the Bay during August and September.

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Sea otter wrapped in kelp in the Monterey Bay. Photo by Jim Capwell.

Watch the Big Blue Live trailer below:

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After 30 Years in the Dark, The Rare Fuzzy Nautilus Is Rediscovered, and These Are Its First Digital Portraits

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Nautilus pompilius (left) and Allonautilus scrobiculatus (right) off Papua New Guinea. Photo: Peter Ward.

In 1984, biologist Peter Ward was diving in the waters off Papua New Guinea when he encountered a peculiarly piliferous genera of nautilus, the funky, deep-dwelling mollusk-like cephalopods–the family containing squids and octopi–that whether they liked it or not, played a large role in the invention of the submarine (and, of course, the subsea vessel in Jules Verne’s classic saga).

Ward classified and named his discovery, and then it was never (officially) seen again. Further study of its unique anatomy led to reclassification in 1997, when the furry nautilus was given a genus all its own–Allonautilus (species scrobiculatus).

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“It’s really nice to see an old friend after a long absence,” biologist Peter Ward writes of his long-lost deep-diving friend (Allonautilus scrobiculatus), for National Geographic. Photo: Peter Ward.

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How the Scientific Legacy of Inventor of the Aquarium Lies Lost on the Ocean Floor

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Jeanne Villepreux-Power one of the world’s first female biologists, by Anne-Lan, from WomenRockScience

Most people don’t know the history behind modern day aquariums, either for use in our homes or for spectacular display at places such as the Charleston and Monterey Bay Aquariums. This simple device – something we today wholly take for granted – as always having been there, was devised by one of the first-noted female marine biologists, Jeanne Villepreux-Power.

After moving to Sicily, Italy with her new husband in 1818, 22-year old Villepreux-Power abandoned her career as a seamstress to intensely study the natural history of her new home. Entirely self-taught with no formal education beyond reading and writing, she observed the flora and fauna of the island. She was most drawn to the life beneath the sea, and through her interest in marine mollusks, she created what is thought to be the first aquarium in 1832. It’s surely one of the greatest contributions to the study of marine biology.

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How Did This Cunning Octopus Chase Down a Skittish Crab? We Asked an Expert at the South Carolina Aquarium

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Screenshot from Bettina Turnbull’s YouTube video from Sydney, Australia.

Cephalopods (octopuses, cuttlefish, squid) are known well for their smarts, which are believed by many to rival the intellectual capacity and ingenuity of the human species.

We’ve seen videos of octopuses slipping into clamshells, unscrewing mason jars, even crawling ashore to wrap an arm around a seagull. However, his circular game of cat and mouse between a pacific octopus and crab (species?) filmed off Sydney had us scratching our heads.

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