Ok, so maybe you weren’t afraid to ask about the majestic and mysterious octopus, but in any case, we’re here to give you the lowdown on this famous creature of the deep. First of all, there are several ways to pluralize the word octopus. There’s the well-known octopi (which we’ll be using in this article), with octopuses and octopodes both being acceptable as well. Keep that in mind for the next time you play Scrabble.
The octopus is one of the few creatures in nature that lacks a skeleton completely, both internally and externally. This allows them to compress their bodies to fit through just about any tight spot they encounter. They inhabit a wide range of territory, being found in all of the world’s oceans and just about all spaces within the oceans, whether it be coral reefs, the ocean floor, underwater caves, sunken sea vessels, and more.
When it comes to escaping from predators, the octopus has a grand array of tactics at its disposal. It can squirt out a dark ink which clouds its predator’s vision as well as temporarily dimming its senses. The ink cloud can also be mistaken for the octopus itself, which leads to many a predator being treated to a tasty snack, but not the hearty meal they had in mind. Octopi can also move at extremely rapid speeds through jet propulsion, as they hurl their bodies through the water as their eight powerful arms trail behind. Another source of defense for most octopi is their coloring which provides an ideal camouflage to keep them unseen by potential predators.
Along with its many unique anatomical features, the octopus also is well known for being among the most intelligent of invertebrate species. Octopi living in captivity have been subjected to numerous tests by scientists which have produced clear evidence of both a powerful long term and short term memory.
They’ve also been known to use tools for building shelters and other items (previously thought to only be the domain of primates), hopping aboard commercial ships and pilfering the catch of the day, and coming up with various “games” to entertain themselves while hanging out in aquariums1. Part of this super-intelligence may stem from the fact that along with their complex brain, every octopus also possesses a network of neurons in their limbs which allow them to act independently of the brain.1
Despite their keen intelligence and numerous defense mechanisms, the octopus is not an animal known for living a very long life. Most species will only live to an age of between six months and five years. Much of octopus mortality is related to procreation. A male octopus will usually die within a month of mating and a female octopus will often tragically starve to death while protecting her eggs and hatchlings, as she will not leave them for any amount of time, even for food1. On a bright note, while living in captivity under closely-controlled circumstances, some octopi have managed to live much longer lives than their counterparts out in the wild.
Octopi have been a staple of the Mediterranean diet and Far East cuisine from ancient times right up through the present. In Japan, miniature octopi are a very popular pizza topping, making the anchovies that a select few Americans enjoy on their pizza seem as normal as pepperoni. They are also very popular throughout the Mediterranean coastal area of Southern Europe as well as Portugal, where they are usually referred to as “pulpo” when employed in culinary applications.
The connection between humans and octopi hasn’t always been limited to the dinner table and stowaway seafood thievery. In the early 1960s, human vs octopus wrestling broke out as a huge fad on the western coast of the USA. Before there was a WWF, WCW, or WWE, we had the WOWC (World Octopus Wrestling Championship)2. This athletic association was centered upon wrestling matches where a particularly adventurous and/or disturbed diver would plunge into shallow sea waters and having it out with an octopus in a no holes barred brawl. The ultimate goal for the diver was to bring the octopus ashore. If he didn’t succeed in this attempt, the match would go to the octopus.
Before this article has a chance to become any more bizarre, we’re going to leave off here and share with you a recipe for Chili Lemon Octopus, courtesy of Jewlies of Food.com.
Chili Lemon Octopus
Ingredients: 4 cloves of crushed garlic, 2 tbsp of olive oil, 2kg (about 4.5 lbs) of baby octopus, 2 tbsp of hot chili sauce, 3/4 cup of lemon juice, and 1 tbsp of freshly grated lemon rind3
Directions: 1. Slice the octopus in half, making sure to discard the head and beak.
2. Mix the octopus meat and other ingredients in a bowl.
3. Cover the bowl and chill for three hours
4. Drain the marinade away from the octopus and discard it
5. Add the octopus to a large frying pan or grill and cook until the meat becomes tender.3
1. Author Unavailable
2. Schumacher, Matt
Reasons Behind the Demise of the World Octopus Wrestling Championship
Chilli Lemon Octopus Recipe
Food.com August 19, 2004