It's no secret - our octopus is by far the most intelligent animal at the Two Oceans Aquarium. The common octopus in the Skretting Diversity Gallery is also the most mysterious, alien and otherworldly creature here - one that is so elusive you might miss it completely on your first glance. But, if you are on the lookout, here are five amazing things you can catch our octopus doing:
5. Showing off its suckers
The hundreds of suckers attached to the octopus's eight arms are amazing - each one has its own set of nerves and can be controlled individually. Think about how cool it is being able to pick up things with your two hands - well this occy has literally got hundreds of hands! And it loves to show them off.
These suckers are not actually sticky unless the octopus decides to grip something (that's why it doesn't stick to itself). The reason it can control so many suckers independently is that there are many hundreds of millions of nerves in each arm, essentially giving each arm a functional brain of its own.
You think chameleons are cool? Think again. Even our common octopus is able to completely change its appearance in mere seconds. Using a system of colour changing chromatophores and tiny muscles in its skin, this octopus can go from smooth white to bumpy black to red with horns and everything in between. It is amazing to see in action.
"Chameleons - your camo game is weak!" - Everyone at the Aquarium
3. Cleaning itself
You don't often see the thin ends of the octopus's arms - it usually tucks those away, out of reach of the nibbly South African butterflyfish. But, if you watch closely it will regularly use them to feel all over its body for parasites - sometimes even sticking them up inside its own head!
2. Posing for a photo
You know that awkward feeling when someone asks you to pose for a photo and you don't know where to put your hands? Well, the octopus has eight to deal with - and the confidence to rock them.
1. Shaking hands with an aquarist
Those suckers are not just for grip, they are for feeling textures, measuring chemicals and tasting everything they touch. Our octopuses learn to recognise the people they care for, but by touch, not by sight.
Here for life?
Octopuses are hyper-intelligent, but have very short lifespans - the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) may only live to the age of two or three years, when its arms approach about a metre in length. They also only have one opportunity to mate before they die. Because of this, we only collect small, young octopuses for the Aquarium and release them again after a few months back into their natural habitat. This is why you might notice their sizes and personalities changing between visits - there's never a dull moment getting to know an octopus.