Tag Archive: octopus


deeply weird

11870643_885828668158338_5476581250463218594_ntoday’s theme is gelatinous octopuses.  i never expected us to see any of these guys, let alone enough to make a ‘theme’, but over the past few days we’ve seen three: the Cirrothauma above, and two of the bolitaenids pictured below.  i’ll tell you a little about them, as they are pretty remarkable.  Cirrothauma murrayi (above) is a blind, finned octopus that seems to live in deep seas around the world; this one was 2.6 km below the surface when we saw him.  (i say ‘him’ because he appeared to have a hectocotylus [modified reproductive arm found only in males]).  mbari encountered another, much smaller specimen on a cruise this past july so it will be very interesting to see whether they are different growth stages of the same species.

the second taxon is a bolitaenid–we think probably Japetella diaphana (lovely name) but it’s pretty hard to tell the two species in this family apart (so it could be Bolitaena pygmaea); you almost have to have them side by side to compare (the difference is in the size of the eyes and the length of the eye stalks on which they are set out from the brain).  this one was found at 690 m.  it’s an amazing animal to watch because, in addition to being able to transition from transparent to red (or anything in between), it also has iridescent cells (iridophores–you can see them below in the funnel, under the eye) set throughout its body that make it sparkle blue and green depending on the light.  when mature, it also develops a large ring-shaped light organ around the beak (thought to play a role in reproduction/communication), which i would love to see (neither of our specimens had it yet).

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kanaloa smiled on us

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while the views of the hawaiian landscape were mighty fine, some of our best memories are from the water.  we were able to snorkel right in front of our hotel on oahu, and it was warm enough to be in for an hour or more comfortably.  little pockets of reef hid darting butterflyfish and wrasses, staring triggerfish and bumbling boxfish, and even a white-mouthed moray eel.  large, intensely blue trevally wandered past while we dove down for glimpses of the shadow-dwellers, and it isn’t much of an exaggeration to say that i could happily have spent all day, every day in the sea.

luckily there was also a chance to show its wonders to the elf–we were walking distance from the waikiki aquarium, which offered arguably even better views of some of the same fish, plus seals, jellies, hermit crabs, and even the elf’s new favorite word, an OPOTUS!  (so.  proud.)

on kauai we also took advantage of a wide range of swimming opportunities, from a glorious snorkel along the na pali coast (one of the best i’ve ever done, and of course the camera was at home charging, so i can’t show you the sapphire depths or large sea turtle we ran into) to dark intrepid swimming holes in the forest, accessible by rope swing or zipline.  we kayaked up the huleia stream past the menehune fishpond (its alleged origins make a good story) and spent an afternoon playing with the elf in the shallows of another estuary.  some days we woke up, put on swim suits, kept them on all day never really got properly dressed…

perfection.

 

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new england aquarium

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birthdays, and friday the 13th

today is the 200th anniversary of charles darwin’s birth.  that makes him 198 years and 5 days older than the inkspot, which turned two inconspicuously while i was out of town last weekend.

i feel like i should say something meaningful about those birthdays, and evolution, and stuff.  but the air-conditioning is broken in this office, it’s friday afternoon, and it’s been a weird week.  for example, i spent an hour and a half this morning talking to a hungarian woman in her late sixties, who has been traveling around new zealand for a month on her own without really speaking any english.  (we get by in german.)  also, i dreamed last night that i had been convicted of killing someone and had twelve days before i would be executed myself.  (the alleged murder victim turned up alive in the end.)  so, running a little low on the sleep budget.

being that it is friday the thirteenth, and hot, and weird, here is a photo of a mutated octopus with branching arms (from sasaki, m. (1929) a monograph of the dibranchiate cephalopods of the japanese and adjacent waters.)  it seems somehow appropriate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

king tut

was the first octopus i ever had contact with.  she was the resident giant pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dolfleini) at the new england aquarium in 1998 and 1999, and she was beautiful.

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and now, some cephage

hi.  my name is tintenfisch, and i’m a cephaholic.

it’s not entirely my own fault.  i see cephalopods everywhere – people send me videos, octopus-shaped meringues attack me in bakeries.  number-holders on cafe tables creep in when i’m not looking.


paintings appear in parking lots.  there are actually quite a few of these throughout nz, painted over coastal drains where the stormwater flows straight into the ocean.  they say ‘poison the sea, poison me.’


i also saw a long-haired, heavy-metal-thrasher-type guy stalking through town the other day, wearing a pokethulhu t-shirt.  i managed not to giggle out loud, until later.

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so, there was a lot of very cool stuff on the leigh dive.  but best of all – far and away – were the two Octopus gibbsi we found hiding the the rocks.  the first was quite shy and seemed ok with being observed closely, but definitely didn't want any contact.  the second, however, got involved in a lively tug'o'war with proffered fingers, and eyed up a small crab as well.  here are the best stills of both beasts:

O. gibbsi in caveO. gibbsi eyeO. gibbsi peekingO. gibbsi pulling on fingersO. gibbsi pulling on fingers

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postcards to the deep

Eb & Flo! I made it to Egypt! Thanks again for the hospitality, and your shrimp scampi was simply divine! I must have the recipe! Having a great time, I think I was born to travel. I find the desert a bit, well, you know, dry, but just love it here otherwise – I get up in the morning, shake out my 8 hiking boots (well, 7 – the stump is regenerating a little more every day and hardly hurts, except when sand gets in it) and get going! Climbed the pyramid yesterday as you can see. Can’t wait to get my disposable abovewater camera developed – I’ll send pics! Miss you already, you must come visit soon. Toodles! Dottie

Dear Grandmother, I hope your surgery went well. I thought this might cheer you up – my first successful landside invasion! You would be proud of me. Other than breaking a radular tooth on The Little Mermaid (amateur mistake, I know), my success has been complete. There is pandemonium in the streets, the fish markets were abandoned immediately (to my delight) and the newspaper headlines this morning read ‘COPENKRAKEN!’ Take care and I’ll visit as soon as I have things reasonably under control here. Love, Archie

Tani, girlfriend, what’s UP!!!! OMG let me fill you in on the last four months. You know that Antarctic Greenpeace campaign I was helping out on? And the damage to the whaling ship? That was totally ME, and the press called it friggin’ Sea Shepherd! What’s up with THAT!! So I felt kind of like disenchanted with oceans campaigns and signed on to come to Finland and save the Inari forests (hence, postcard)… only, while I was in NZ before coming here, I kind of met this guy. I don’t know, it was only a few days, but girl, I think he’s the ONE. Get this. He was in Lord of the RINGS! Bit part, but still – that’s pretty hot. So when we finish up here, I think I’m going to head back down and just, you know, see how things go. More news as it happens! Love always – Bubbles

Dear Karl & Maria, Well, my travels are almost over. I can’t believe how fast the year abroad went – and to think I was worried at the start that the schools here in Germany wouldn’t be the same. Thank you again for being such a wonderful host family – I can’t believe you even had a spare cave for me! I’m seeing a few last sights before I go home. Neuschwanstein is as beautiful in person as everyone says… but I confess it reminds me of a little plastic one we have at home in the terrarium, for the humans to hide in. I even bought a little souvenir model here to take home and show my younger brothers. Big hugs to you, thanks again and I hope you can come stay with my family sometime. With love, ‘fleini (your favorite teuthological teutonophile)

Dear Mom, I have some news. I’m making some life changes. Things were just moving too quickly and I’m not sure about studying so I moved off the HIPO campus and… wait, let me back up. First, Alice and I have been doing a lot of thinking and we just have different ideas about our lives for the next couple years. She wants ponies soon, and, well, I can’t really stomach the idea yet of anything other than pizza in my abdomen. Alice understands, but family is an immediate goal for her, so we’ve made an amicable split. I’ve found a nice little patch of kelp in the suburbs and I’m rethinking my priorities… I’ll keep you posted. Oh, and I got a really big dog, and three kittens. I guess the closest thing to ‘pouch’ I can commit to right now is… ‘pooch.’ Love, Finn

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unbeaknownst to me…

i come home from work with bites and hickeys.

not everyone who works at the aquarium sustains such damage.  in fact, no one there who hasn't met (and i do mean met, as in the equivalent of shaking hands with) the new octopus, scofield, is likely to have experienced much worse from her predecessors than a good tug-of-war game over a mussel shell.  we have had a wide range of personalities in our previous octopuses – slime was a sweetheart, beegee was sulky, mud was always curious, and the most recent (and unfortunately late) denizen of the octo tank stealthily and systematically dismantled an overflow in the corner of the tank until she was able to climb out one night.  she was found the next morning, too late, in the filtration workings under the neighboring tank.  (scofield has been named in her honor.)

this one is just plain trouble.  i met her today for the first time, a lovely young Octopus gibbsi.  i should have known immediately that she was different from the others – instead of sitting on a rock, watching, when i came by to start cleaning, scofield was already pacing across the front of the acrylic.  what's more, she was turned so that her mantle and eyes were facing out – looking directly at me, in a posture i'd never seen before.  i had been warned that i would 'have fun' cleaning her tank, and that i might want to have a decoy ready when i started working in there.  i would have saved myself a drenching if i'd listened. 

before vacuuming the tank, i opted to remove the whole mussel shells that had collected on the bottom, the remains of several days' worth of meals.  scofield immediately made it clear to me that anything poking around in her territory would be summarily enveloped and commandeered.  i was ready for the pulling game, but was impressed when, slowly recovering the 'helping hand' inch by inch, i lifted the whole octopus and two five-pound rocks (firmly held in her arms) off the bottom.  i was not ready for her to suddenly drop the rocks, scamper up the helping hand, cock one calculating eye out of the water, and blow a jet of cold seawater straight into my face.  it was a perfect shot, and i was both relieved and disappointed no one else had been nearby to see it.  sodden, i finished reclaiming the helping hand and went off on a brief towel break.

round two began the moment i got the vacuum hose in the tank.  scofield wanted it.  no, not just wanted it.  insisted on having it.  four arms on the hose and four arms on the glass ensured that she was in complete control of the top of the siphon.  i was, however, able to lever the bottom around the tank well enough to get about half the vacuum done before she discovered it was much more satisfying (to her, frustrating for me) to drop down and control the bottom of the siphon instead.  this rendered it effectively useless until i dropped the helping hand back in (voila, a decoy) and coaxed her to work out the mechanics of unhooking it from the side of the tank, while i quickly finished the vac.

so the tank was cleaned, and i was soaked.  with the score tied, we took a break for several hours. 

in the afternoon, some friends came through and wanted to meet the octopus.  armed (sorry) with bribes in the form of food, we returned to the tank and opened the lid.  i warned bystanders that they were likely to get wet, and sure enough, scofield came out shooting.  she immediately grabbed my wrist and hauled hersef halfway out of the tank, sending a jet over the top of the tank surround and yes, baptizing those closest to her.  not satisfied, she continued to climb my arm until she was completely clear of the water (i held her aloft briefly for public admiration), where she had a better shot, which she took – with more water than should logically have fit inside a softball-sized mantle.  then the fireworks really began.  she never had fewer than four arms twining around my wrist as she climbed up and down, submerged herself for a refill, climbed back out, writhed, explored everything she could reach, and yes, continued to douse the audience (and me), to the delight of some and the less-enthused suprise of others.  keeping one eye on her and the other on several visitors brave enough to join me in touching the contorting, fountaining octopus, i managed a brief spiel on octopus biology and behavior in general before giving her a final mussel shell, extracting myself and battening her hatch back down.  i thought we had come out even once more as i headed back to the office to wash my hands, although i noticed a few red sucker-marks developing on my knuckles.  it wasn't until i felt a light sting while soaping my hands that i noticed i was bleeding a little in one spot and grazed in another – scofield had bitten me.  twice.  here i was telling the public how curious and wily she was, explaining about the beak and why i was keeping away from it, and relating how sneaky the last one had been… unaware that madame mischief was busy chewing holes in my skin. 

well, i hope she enjoys her victory for now.  my work schedule dictates that we will meet again in mid-april.  and i'll be ready.  >:) 

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