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What is the largest species of octopus?

What is the largest species of octopus?

Octopuses are a fascinating group of cephalopod mollusks that are known for their intelligence, their ability to change color and texture to camouflage themselves, and their uncanny ability to fit into incredibly small spaces. While most octopus species are quite small, ranging from about 12 inches to 36 inches (30-91 cm) in length, there are a few species that grow to massive sizes, making them the largest invertebrates on the planet. In this article, we’ll explore what the largest octopus species are, looking at their key identifying features, their size, habitat and range, diet, and other interesting facts about these giant mollusks.

Giant Pacific Octopus

The Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) is often considered the largest species of octopus in terms of both weight and size. They have an arm span of up to 16 feet (5 m) and can weigh up to 110 lbs (50 kg), with an average weight closer to 50 lbs (23 kg). Their creamy white skin is dotted with reddish spots and their arm suckers are lined with sharp horny rings.

Some key facts about the Giant Pacific Octopus:

Average Arm Span Up to 16 feet (5 m)
Average Weight 50 lbs (23 kg)
Maximum Weight 110 lbs (50 kg)
Habitat Coastal waters of the northern Pacific from Japan to Alaska
Diet Crustaceans, fish, sharks, birds, clams, other octopuses
Life Span 3-5 years

The Giant Pacific Octopus is found in the coastal waters of the northern Pacific Ocean, ranging from the waters around Japan up to the Aleutian Islands and down the coast of Alaska and Canada. They prefer rocky crevices and dens near the seafloor at depths of up to 2,000 feet (610 m).

These octopuses are ferocious predators that feed on a variety of prey including crustaceans like crabs, clams, fish, sharks, birds, and even other octopuses. They are very intelligent and have excellent eyesight, making them formidable hunters. Their flexible bodies allow them to fit into tight spaces in pursuit of prey.

Seven-Arm Octopus

The Seven-Arm Octopus (Haliphron atlanticus) is another contender for the largest octopus species. As their name suggests, they typically have seven arms rather than the usual eight. They have a mantle (body) length of up to 6 feet (1.8 m) and a total arm span of up to 14 feet (4.3 m), although sizes over 10 feet (3 m) are rare. Their extreme size makes them the heaviest octopus species, with weights estimated up to 165 lbs (75 kg).

Here are some key traits of the Seven-Arm Octopus:

Average Arm Span Up to 14 feet (4.3 m)
Maximum Weight 165 lbs (75 kg)
Habitat Deep ocean waters, up to 9,750 feet (3,000 m) depth
Diet Mainly crustaceans and other cephalopods
Life Span Unknown, likely 3-5 years

The Seven-Arm Octopus inhabits deep ocean waters, diving up to depths of 9,750 feet (3,000 m) in search of food. Their range extends throughout the Atlantic Ocean from Norway to South Africa.

These deep sea predators feed mainly on crustaceans like crabs and shrimp as well as other cephalopods. Their reproductive strategies and lifespan remain mysterious since these octopuses are so rarely observed in their extreme deep ocean habitat.

North Pacific Giant Octopus

The North Pacific Giant Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) is very similar to the Giant Pacific Octopus in appearance, size, and habits. It ranges throughout the northern Pacific, from California to the Sea of Japan. Just like its close cousin, it has a maximum arm span over 16 feet (5 m) and weight exceeding 100 lbs (45 kg).

Some quick facts on the North Pacific Giant Octopus:

Average Arm Span Up to 16 feet (5 m)
Maximum Weight 100+ lbs (45+ kg)
Habitat North Pacific, from California to Sea of Japan
Diet Crabs, fish, sharks, seals, whales, birds
Life Span 3-5 years

These octopuses occupy dens and rock crevices along the seafloor, hunting crabs, fish, sharks, whales, seals, and even sea birds. Their color changing abilities allow them to avoid predation and surprise prey. Highly intelligent and flexible, they are adept at hunting and problem-solving.

Some scientists consider the North Pacific Giant Octopus to be the same species as the Giant Pacific Octopus. However, others argue they are distinct subspecies or separate species entirely based on geographic isolation and genetic differences.

Common Octopus

While certainly not the largest octopus species, the Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris) deserves a mention as one of the biggest shallow water octopus species. They grow to mantle lengths over 3 feet (1 m) and arm spans exceeding 10 feet (3 m). Average weights range from 15-22 lbs (7-10 kg).

Average Arm Span Up to 10 feet (3 m)
Maximum Weight 22 lbs (10 kg)
Habitat Shallow, warm waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans
Diet Crustaceans, mollusks, fish
Life Span 1-2 years

TheCommon Octopus is found in tropical, subtropical, and temperate waters worldwide. They frequent shallow, rocky reefs and grassy sandy bottoms from the intertidal zone down to depths of 200 m. Fast-growing and short-lived, they survive just 1-2 years. They are voracious predators, feeding mainly on crabs, clams, scallops and fish.

Atlantic Pygmy Octopus

On the opposite end of the size spectrum, the Atlantic Pygmy Octopus (Octopus joubini) is one of the smallest octopus species. Adults reach mantle lengths of just 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) and weigh less than 1 oz (28 g).

Maximum Mantle Length 2 inches (5 cm)
Maximum Weight 1 oz (28 g)
Habitat Shallow coastal waters of the western Atlantic
Diet Small crustaceans, mollusks, worms
Life Span Less than 1 year

This tiny octopus lives in shallow warm waters ranging from North Carolina to the Caribbean and the northern coast of South America. It feeds on small benthic organisms like crabs, snails, clams and polychaete worms. Rarely living over 1 year, its short life cycle is adapted to its small size.

Largest Octopus: Conclusion

When it comes to the largest octopus species, two giants stand out for their massive proportions: the Giant Pacific Octopus and Seven-Arm Octopus. Both can exceed lengths of 16 feet (5 m) and weights over 100 lbs (45 kg). However, the Giant Pacific Octopus wins for the overall largest size, with the largest individuals reaching 600 lb (272 kg) and arm spans up to 30 feet (9 m). No matter their exact maximum proportions, these enormous octopuses are truly giant invertebrates. Their large size aids them as apex predators, while their intelligence and flexible abilities allow them to explore and adapt to their environments. Even the smaller octopus species showcase impressive abilities, from color changing camouflage to complex problem-solving. The great sizes and behavioral diversity of octopuses continue to fascinate marine biologists and animal lovers alike.