In changes from its normal reddish-brown color to

In this lesson, you will get to know the mysterious octopus. You will learn about its body features, its habitat, its eating habits, and some of the cool behaviors it can learn.

What is an Octopus?

A Common Octopus moves along the seafloor
A Common Octopus emerges from its hiding place.</p><div class=

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Can you imagine exploring the ocean with eight arms? How about squeezing your whole body into a hole the size of a quarter? This is all in a day’s work for the octopus, an animal that lives in the world’s oceans.The octopus is an invertebrate, which means that is does not have a backbone. Actually, the octopus doesn’t have any bones. This body structure allows the octopus to hide and hunt in small spaces under the sea.

Octopus Features

You probably recognize the octopus by its eight powerful arms, which are covered in sticky suction cups. These arms, along with the suction cups, help the octopus grab onto its prey, or the animals it eats.

The octopus uses its suction cups to grab onto prey
The octopus uses its suction cups to grab onto prey.

The arms are attached directly to the octopus’s head, which is called the mantle.

The mantle holds the octopus’s brain, digestive system, and three hearts.The mouth is located on the underside of the octopus’s mantle, right where the eight arms meet. It is home to the only hard part of the octopus’s body – the beak! An octopus’s beak is made of keratin, which is the same material that makes our fingernails.

Octopuses use their beaks to inject poison into their prey and to crush or tear their food into tiny pieces.Octopuses can be teeny to huge in size, with different species measuring from a few inches to 30 feet across. They can change color to blend in with their surroundings and can squirt ink to hide from enemies.

The Giant Pacific Octopus changes from its normal reddish-brown color to blend in with its surroundings
The Giant Pacific Octopus changes from its normal reddish-brown color to blend in with its surroundings.

A small octopus may live about one year, while larger octopuses may live up to four years.

Where Do Octopuses Live?

Octopuses live in oceans all over the world. Some live in shallow, warm waters, while others, like the Giant Pacific Octopus, live in colder, deeper waters. Octopuses are found in only saltwater habitats, or living places. There are no octopuses in freshwater habitats like lakes and streams.

What Do Octopuses Eat?

Octopuses enjoy meals of small fish, crabs, clams, and squid. Sometimes they even eat other octopuses. They use their arms to grab their prey and then pull the food into their mouths. If needed, octopuses break apart hard shells with their beaks.

Do Octopuses Hang Out?

As cool as the octopus is, it doesn’t like to hang out with others. Octopuses are solitary animals, meaning that they live alone. They interact with other octopuses only to mate.An octopus mates once in its life.

The male swims off after mating, and dies shortly after. The female octopus lays eggs, and stops eating so she can take care of them. She dies shortly after the eggs hatch, and the hatchlings, or babies, swim off to figure things out for themselves.

How to Train Your Octopus

This may come as a surprise, but octopuses are really smart. They can be trained to open containers, move through mazes, and respond to hand signals. They may use objects they find on the seafloor as tools. Octopuses have even been observed sneaking into neighboring fish tanks to eat the fish!

Lesson Summary

  • The octopus has eight arms for grabbing prey.

  • Octopuses are invertebrates.
  • Octopuses are found in oceans all over the world.
  • An octopus can be very large or very small.
  • Octopuses do not care for their young. The hatchlings are independent from the time they hatch.
  • Octopuses can be trained to open containers and solve puzzles.
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