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What does a real octopus look like?

What does a real octopus look like?

Octopuses are fascinating creatures that inhabit all the world’s oceans. They have soft, sac-like bodies and eight muscular arms covered with suckers. Octopuses can change both their color and texture to blend in with their environment. They are masters of disguise and can hide in plain sight. Let’s take a closer look at the anatomy and abilities of real octopuses.

Octopus Anatomy

Octopuses have a unique body plan unlike any other animal. Here are the key anatomical features of octopuses:

  • Their body is shaped like a sac and has no internal or external skeleton. This allows them to squeeze into very small spaces.
  • They have three hearts that pump blood to their organs. Two hearts pump blood to the gills, while the third heart circulates blood to the rest of the body.
  • Octopuses have a highly developed brain that is capable of complex thought and problem-solving skills. Their brain is the largest and most complex of any invertebrate.
  • They have excellent eyesight. Each eye contains thousands of visual receptors that can detect color, light intensity, and polarization.
  • An octopus has eight arms covered with suckers. The arms are very strong but also flexible and sensitive to touch. They use their arms not just for grasping but also for tasting and feeling.
  • They have a sharp, horny beak that resembles a parrot’s beak. They use this to grasp and bite prey while injecting venom.
  • Octopuses have three hearts, a complex brain, and blue blood without hemoglobin.

Abilities and Behaviors

Octopuses possess many special abilities that aid their survival in the ocean. Here are some of their most impressive behaviors and skills:

  • They are masters of camouflage and can change their skin color, pattern, and texture to match their surroundings in a split second. Some can even mimic other dangerous animals.
  • Octopuses are very intelligent and use complex problem-solving skills in their daily lives. They are adept tool users and have even been known to escape from aquarium tanks.
  • They have an excellent sense of touch and can identify objects solely by feel. Their suckers can taste as well as feel.
  • Octopuses can squirt clouds of dark ink to confuse predators and cover their escape.
  • They are able to squeeze their soft bodies into incredibly small cracks and crevices where predators can’t reach.
  • Some species of octopus can deliver a paralyzing venom through a bite. The blue-ringed octopus has venom that can kill humans.
  • Octopuses are solitary creatures and most species live alone as adults. They have a short lifespan, usually just 1-2 years.

Octopus Appearance

Octopuses have a distinctive gelatinous appearance with some key identifying features:

Body Soft, sac-like body that can change shape
Skin Smooth, slimy skin that can change color, pattern, and texture
Arms Eight muscular arms covered in suckers
Eyes Large, bulbous eyes
Mouth A sharp, parrot-like beak

Some key features that identify an octopus include the eight arms, bulbous head, beak-like mouth, and ability to change color and texture. The skin appears gelatinous and slimy. The eyes are large and prominent. The overall shape is a soft sac that can contort and squeeze into tight spaces.

Octopus Locomotion

Octopuses have a unique way of moving through the water. Here are the key aspects of octopus locomotion:

  • Octopuses use a type of propulsion called jet propulsion. They draw water into their mantle cavity and then forcefully expel it to propel themselves forwards.
  • Their soft bodies allow them to move very efficiently with minimal resistance. They can achieve speeds of up to 25 mph in short bursts.
  • They crawl across the seafloor using their suckers and arms. The suckers have chemoreceptors that allow them to taste and smell as they move.
  • Octopuses can walk on two arms across the seabed while the remaining arms are utilized for other purposes.
  • When threatened, octopuses can expel ink to obscure the vision of predators while they jet away.
  • Octopuses are able to squeeze into tiny crevices where predators can’t reach them due to their soft, pliable bodies.

In summary, octopus locomotion relies on jet propulsion, flexibility to reduce drag, and a variety of movements like crawling, walking, and squeezing that make the most of their unique anatomy.

Octopus Senses

Octopuses have excellent senses that help them thrive as ocean predators. Here is an overview of their sensory abilities:

  • Sight – They have complex eyes similar to those of humans. Excellent vision helps them detect prey, predators, and mates.
  • Touch – Their suckers are highly sensitive and help octopuses feel, taste, and smell their environment.
  • Taste – Suckers contain chemoreceptors that detect chemicals in the water allowing octopuses to taste.
  • Smell – Specialized cells detect chemical odors in the water for finding food and evading predators.
  • Hearing – They do not have ears but can detect low frequency sound waves through receptors in their arms.
  • Balance – An inner ear-like structure called a statocyst helps octopuses maintain balance and equilibrium.

In short, octopuses possess a sophisticated sensory system for sight, touch, taste, smell, hearing, and balance that provides detailed, high-resolution input about their environment.

Octopus Reproduction

Octopuses have some unique and surprising methods of reproduction. Here are key facts about how they mate and reproduce:

  • Most octopuses reproduce sexually with the male using a specialized arm to deliver sperm into the female’s mantle cavity.
  • The female then produces strings of fertilized eggs that she hangs in clusters up to 100,000 eggs. She cares for the eggs, keeping them clean and aerating them.
  • Once the eggs hatch, the female does not provide any parental care. The tiny octopus larvae drift in the ocean currents and suffer high mortality rates.
  • A few deep sea octopus species are known to reproduce asexually through a process called parthenogenesis. The females can lay eggs that develop without being fertilized.
  • The females of some species will die shortly after their eggs hatch. Others can survive up to six months to guard several batches of eggs over their lifetime.
  • Males also die soon after mating. Octopuses have a short lifespan, usually just 1-2 years.

In summary, most octopuses reproduce sexually with the female providing extended care for the eggs. Their short lifespan leads to a single reproductive period before death.

Octopus Size

There is a tremendous range of sizes among the over 300 species of octopus. Some key facts about octopus sizes include:

  • The giant Pacific octopus is the largest species. It grows up to 16 feet in length and can weigh up to 110 pounds.
  • The smallest octopus is the Octopus wolfi which is under 2 inches long as an adult.
  • Most species are much smaller, growing to 12 inches long on average.
  • Deep sea octopuses are typically smaller than shallow water species.
  • Females are generally much larger than males of the same species.
  • Octopus size is limited by their short lifespan. They grow rapidly but few exceed 2 years old.

The table below summarizes size ranges for various octopus species:

Species Average Size Maximum Size
Giant Pacific Octopus 10-16 feet Up to 16 feet
Common Octopus 12-36 inches 36 inches
California Two-Spot Octopus 8-12 inches 16 inches
Octopus Wolfi 1-2 inches 2 inches

Octopus Diet

With powerful hunting skills, octopuses are able to capture and eat a variety of marine prey. Here are some key facts about their dietary habits:

  • As predators, octopuses mainly feed on live prey including crustaceans, mollusks, and fish.
  • Their beak-like jaws let them drill through tough shells to access meat inside.
  • The venomous saliva helps paralyze prey and aids digestion.
  • Common prey includes crabs, crayfish, clams, shrimp and fish.
  • Some larger octopus species have been known to eat sharks and other octopuses.
  • Their feeding strategy involves stealthily stalking their prey while camouflaging against the seafloor before quickly striking and capturing it.
  • Octopuses have high metabolisms and need to eat frequently – often several times per day.

In summary, octopuses are active predators that consume a variety of live prey including crustaceans, bivalves, gastropods, and fish. Their stealthy hunting strategy allows them to ambush prey and utilize their powerful beaks to access the meat inside hard shells.

Octopus Habitat

Octopuses inhabit diverse marine environments across the globe’s oceans. Here is an overview of key octopus habitat facts:

  • They live in every ocean around the world from tropical to polar regions.
  • Most species inhabit shallow coastal waters on the continental shelf.
  • Some live in deeper waters, but few live below depths of 10,000 feet.
  • They are found in coral reefs, kelp forests, tidepools and seagrass beds.
  • Rocky crevices, caves and dens provide shelter for many octopus species.
  • A few species live in more open water, occasionally swimming briefly.
  • Giant Pacific octopuses live along the northern Pacific coasts on rocky bottoms.

In summary, octopuses occupy diverse ocean habitats globally but are most abundant in shallow coastal waters. Their flexible bodies allow them to utilize complex rocky and coralline environments as shelter.

Octopus Defense Mechanisms

Octopuses employ an array of defense tactics to avoid predators and threats. Their primary defense mechanisms include:

  • Camouflage – Their ability to change color and texture lets them blend seamlessly into any background.
  • Inking – They create clouds of dark ink to obscure predators’ vision so they can escape.
  • Decoys – Some species can shed limbs that continue wriggling to distract predators.
  • Venom – The blue-ringed octopus has a powerful neurotoxin that is often fatal to humans.
  • Fleeing – Octopuses can move very fast in short bursts to evade threats.
  • Hiding – Their soft bodies can squeeze into tight crevices where predators can’t reach.

In summary, octopuses rely heavily on camouflage, ink screens, speed, venom, and hiding places to avoid predators. These defense tactics make them very difficult prey for most marine animals.


With their utterly unique anatomy, amazing sensory capabilities, and morphological adaptability, octopuses have thrived in the ocean for millions of years. By understanding their distinctive appearance, complex behaviors, and stealthy hunting abilities, we gain insight into why octopuses flourish in habitats around the world. Watching an octopus change color, solve puzzles, and squeeze into impossibly tiny crevices never ceases to amaze. The octopus is truly one of the most marvelous creatures on Earth.