The Neatest Little Paper Ever Read ®

Issue 974



by Janet Spencer

Come along with Tidbits as we admire the amazing world of octopuses!


• The plural of octopus is not actually “octopi”, because “octopus” derives from the Greek words meaning “eight foot,” and the plural ending “-i” is Latin. The true Greek plural would be “octopodes” but the standard English word is “octopuses.”

• There are about 250 species of octopus known so far. The largest is the Giant Pacific octopus which inhabits the northern Pacific Ocean off the United States up to Alaska and around Japan. The suckers on their arms are three inches in diameter. Each sucker can lift 30 pounds , and there are about 1,600 suckers altogether, divided between the eight arms.

• The largest octopus ever found was a Giant Pacific octopus that weighed 600 pounds with an arm span of 32 feet .

• The Giant Pacific octopus is also among the longest-lived species, but still usually only reaches the age of three or four years.

• The smallest octopus is the Octopus wolfi found in shallow waters of the western Pacific. It is smaller than an inch long and weighs less than an ounce.

• An octopus has three hearts. Two of the three hearts pump blood to the gills, while the third circulates blood to the rest of the body.

• A human has one brain with four distinct lobes, with each lobe in charge of a different function. An octopus has nine brains with up to 75 different lobes. They use one central brain to control the nervous system and a small brain in each arm to control movement.

• Octopuses have no skeleton, but they do have powerful jaws, a parrot-like beak, and venomous saliva.

• Some people call octopus appendages “tentacles”, but that is incorrect; they are actually “arms.” Arms have suckers along their entire length, while tentacles have suckers only at the tip. This means that octopuses have eight arms and no tentacles, but cuttlefish, nautiluses, and squids have eight arms and two tentacles.

• The muscles in the arms are more similar to the muscles in a human tongue than to the human bicep. An octopus can turn its arms into a rigid rod, and can also shorten them in length by up to 70%. Its arm muscles can resist the strength of a pull amounting to 100 times the weight of the octopus.

• Octopuses can taste with their entire bodies, most especially in their suckers. The suckers can be folded in half and have such dexterity that they can untie a knotted string. When an octopus grabs a fish with the end of an arm, the arm does not deliver the fish directly to the mouth. Instead, the fish is passed the length of the arm, from one sucker to the next, like moving down a conveyor belt.


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