Critter News: Pacific Red Octopus

It’s our newest Octopus rubescens (Pacific red octopus). She is only a few ounces of cephalopod beauty, but her venom packs a punch. According to scientists such as Roland Anderson and Roger Hanlon (author of Cephalopod Behavior), the bite of the red octopus is potent; the painful effects can last for days, weeks, or longer.

It’s said to bite more readily than the larger giant Pacific octopus — not too surprising considering it’s a bite-size delicacy on many marine animal’s menus, including the Northern sea otter and Northern fur seal.

Small giant Pacific octopuses look much like the Pacific red octopus, so how can we tell the difference? First of all, never pick-up any octopus to look at it! If you have a good profile view, you may see 3 flaps of skin (see photo below) below the eyes. This relative of snails, slugs, abalone, clams, cuttlefish, squid and other mollusks, lives about two years and may eventually weigh one pound. It’s found intertidally to 1,000 feet from Alaska to Mexico, commonly residing in discarded bottles and cans. In sandy substrate, it may bury itself with only its eyes visible above the surface. Crabs and other crustaceans are favorite foods; its venom can immobilize them in minutes.

Pacific Red Octopus eye flaps

The arrow in the picture is pointing at the 3 eye flaps that help distinguish the Pacific red octopus from the giant Pacific octopus.

Come visit the Aquarium’s Puget Sound Fish exhibit to take a closer look at this little beauty.

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