Marine Biology

The Eating Habits of Octopuses



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Having listened to the song "Octopus's Garden" by the Beatles many times, it appears to be a silly notion, an almost childlike fairy tale song by the musical group. The song lyrics reference the obscurity of this creature and its ability to live nearly unnoticed by its surroundings. The lovers in the Beatles song like the idea of living in a secret "hideaway beneath the waves".

The truth is that there really is an octopus's garden. The octopus's garden is the build up of the discarded shells of its prey that collect all around its den.

The octopus is not an animal that feeds frequently. It hides in its lair in the daytime and then comes out at night to hunt its prey. Also known as a nocturnal predator the octopus will eat nearly anything that it catches. It's diet usually consists of crabs, shrimp, scallops, snails, fish, turtles, and even other octopuses.

The octopus hunts by sight. It will surge forward and grasp its prey with its tentacles. It tests the prey to see if it is appropriate to eat and it rejects anything that seems wrong.

Usually it will rip the prey apart with its powerful suckers and then kill the prey with it beaklike mouth. It then scoops out the flesh of the prey such as a crab and then leave the shell which becomes part of its garden.

The octopus can use its salivary secretion to paralyze its victim and it also works to partial digest the prey. The mouth of the octopus is located underneath its head between the tentacles. Each tentacle has 240 suction cups that aid it hunting and eating its prey. The octopus can also use ink to disorient its victims before the attack.

It takes the octopus six hours to digest its food. As a result it can eat enough to swim constantly. That is why the octopus is a bottom dweller that only leaves its hideout occasionally. A mother octopus doesn't eat for 1-2 months while carrying eggs.

The octopus is a fascinating animal that can blend into nearly any environment. It uses its ability to match its color and texture with the environment to aid in hunting its prey.

So the next time you hear the song "Octopus's garden" you will realize it isn't referring to flowers and vegetables. Instead it is the remnants of a really good lunch.

Sources consulted in the writing of this article include:

National Geographic
www.springerlink.com
www.simacanadian.com

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