My Octopus Teacher has been a huge hit on Netflix. I watched it and cried like a baby even though I know very well that octopuses have short life spans, depending on the species. I found it to be a beautiful documentary, and it hit very close to home as one of my favorite places to be is underwater with marine life. I agree that wild animals teach us a lot about being human. The octopus in My Octopus Teacher is a Common Octopus, but there are many species. Allow me to introduce you to some of the octopus I have been privileged to see while diving!
FUN OCTOPUS FACT: Octopuses use tools! They are quite intelligent, solving puzzles, opening jars, and even opening childproof medicine bottles!
The Caribbean Reef Octopus
Caribbean Reef Octopus are quite small, weighing only 3 pounds at full growth. They are masters of camouflage, I have never seen another octopus that changes colors like this one. They can look smooth or bumpy, go from orange to green to mottled to blue in the blink of an eye. These are the octopus I have interacted with the most, they are plentiful on the reefs of Cozumel and in the Caribbean. They have a very short life span, only living to a year, year and a half. This species of octopus is not social with other octopuses except during mating, but surprisingly they can be playful with divers. Caribbean Reef Octopus are nocturnal, and you can find them on shallow reefs on a night dive. They are one of the reasons I love going on night dives.
FUN OCTOPUS FACT: “Man-made suction cups pale in comparison to natural ones that cover the undersides of octopus arms. A common octopus has about 240 suckers on each limb, and a particularly large sucker can hold up to 35 lbs. The suckers are also extremely sensitive; they can pick up subtle chemical signals and move individually, even folding in half in a pinching gesture.” LIVE SCIENCE
The Atlantic Longarm Octopus
The Atlantic Longarm is so small it is almost impossible to spot. I’ve been diving more than 30 years and have only seen it twice! They also have a short life span, and camouflage to avoid being spotted. Their arms are super long compared to their mantles.
The Common Octopus
The Common Octopus is found in all tropical waters. Their mantle (excluding arms) is about 10 inches, and the arms can grow up to 3 feet. Like other octopuses, they can camouflage beautifully. As you saw in My Octopus Teacher, the Common Octopus lives only a year or two, uses tools, and the females die after their eggs hatch. I’ve seen them do some crazy things! Watching one eat an eel was particularly fascinating.
The Day Octopus roams the reefs in tropical waters from Hawaii to East Africa. The large, almost three-foot-long predator is short-lived, surviving just one year and breeding only once. While most octopuses hunt at night, this species spends its days stalking crabs, clams and fishes. *Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Fun Octopus Fact
Octopus are not fish, they are cephalopods in the Mollusk family. Other members are squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus.
This tiny octopus is 3 inches! A very little guy, he is named Coconut because he likes to hide in Coconut shells, though he will use any hollowed-out shell to hide. They also can hide in the sand. Unfortunately, sometimes coconut octopuses think that plastic garbage makes a great place to hide. Did you know around 17.6 billion pounds of plastic ends up in our oceans every year, killing many animals? Reuse, reduce, recycle!
The Mimic Octopus
The Mimic is a small and resilient octopus which can mimic other animals. It can mimic sea snakes, lionfish, and flatfish, which are poisonous, to confuse predators. It can also walk upright on its legs! Talk about confusing predators. The Mimic only lives about 9 months. They are really fun to watch!
The Wunderpus Octopus
I am not sure what to call this octopus! I have researched, and have not been able to find any information on it. The boat I was on, the Coralia in Raja Ampat, called it a “pygmy octopus”. There is an Atlantic Pygmy Octopus, but I took these photos in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Perhaps it is a baby of another species? This little one was so tiny I almost missed it.
Blue Ringed Octopus
The Blue Ringed Octopus is a tiny little thing, but packs a lot of venom. It carries enough toxin to kill 26 human beings within minutes. It carries tetrodotoxin, the same venom pufferfish have. The Blue Ringed Octopus is not aggressive at all, and you do not want to mess with it. The key here is leave it alone. Not many have survived a bite from this mollusk, and there is no anti-venom. I have never gotten close enough to one to take a photo.
Fun Octopus Facts
“Ah, you made me ink!” said the little octopus in Finding Nemo. When an octopus inks, it is amazing to watch. Octopus “ink” is made of melanin and mucus, stored in sacs and released through the same siphons it uses to expel waste. Inking is a defense mechanism, used to confuse predators so the octopus can get away. The ink is black though it looks brownish in the photos due to the flash of my strobes.
Octopuses have 3 hearts and 9 brains!
So, if you haven’t yet seen My Octopus Teacher head on over to Netflix. We can learn from watching wildlife, and so can our children. We share this earth with other living creatures, and we must preserve it in order for humans to thrive on this planet.