Tag Archives: Octopus

Watching an octopus

A day octopus in the waters off Hawaii

The easiest way to spot an octopus is to see it swimming (top photo). They’re not large creatures but they’re quite distinctive when they swim.

If they’re not swimming, one thing to look for is certain fish, such as goatfishes and jacks, just hanging around in a spot for no apparent reason. When these fish are hunting alone, they tend to be more active in probing the rocks and trying to disturb prey. But when they’re hunting with an octopus, they seem more content to let the octopus do the work and snapping up whatever emerges. I’ve found that goatfishes are particularly helpful as an octopus indicator.

A while back, there were videos online of an octopus apparently punching a goatfish. I wasn’t surprised by this. The octopuses I’ve seen don’t seem best pleased by the presence of goatfishes. Part of this might be down to feeling that the goatfishes are not pulling their weight in the hunt. But another factor might be that if goatfishes give away their position, for the octopus that can be fatal.

Octopus is a popular food in Hawaii and has long been so. If I’ve learned to look for goatfish as an indicator of their presence, then no doubt spear fishermen have too. These days, if I see an octopus when anyone’s spear fishing nearby, I don’t do anything to draw attention to it.

A day octopus in the waters off Hawaii

Day octopus squabble

A couple of days ago, I saw an octopus while snorkeling. It was on a vertical face of rock and when I showed up it slipped around the corner out of sight. I followed and could see it had gone into a recess there. I saw a tentacle moving and then, moments later, a round white thing appeared, a tentacle clasped around it.

I was mystified. I thought it might be the remains of an urchin or something. The white globe disappeared back into the depths. Moments later it appeared out of the side of the recess and it quickly became clear that the round white balloon was the head of another, completely white octopus. This white coloration is adopted when an octopus is feeling aggressive or threatened.

After a brief flurry of tentacles the white octopus disengaged, shot away a short distance, and changed color again as it landed on a rock. The octopus I’d first seen appeared again at the entrance of the recess. There was a little more to and fro before the evicted octopus gave up and moved away and the first octopus slipped back into the depths of the recess. My take on this was that the octopus I saw first wasn’t happy to find the other octopus in its lair and turfed it out.

The top photo shows the evicted octopus gathering itself after being run off. The second photo shows it on the move, still with the white coloration. The third photo shows the victor in the dispute, looking a little smug if I may say so.

Sneaky day octopus

I was almost done with my swim yesterday when I noticed this small day octopus sneaking into this crack. It was shallow there so I got a decent photo of the octopus watching me. Then I swam on a few feet. The octopus, as they do, emerged from its hideaway, so I quickly turned and got the second photo. I can be kind of sneaky, too.

Posted in response to Becky’s October Squares challenge theme of ‘Kind.’ See more responses here.

Going, going, gone

Last week I posted some octopus photos here. A few days after taking those photos, I had another octopus encounter which I enjoyed a good deal.

I swam over a rocky ledge and saw an octopus in the middle of a large, flat rock. The rock was pale, but speckled and the octopus was quite white with brown markings. When an octopus gets angry it will flush white, but that wasn’t what was happening with this one. Its paleness was an attempt to blend in.

I stopped and the octopus froze. I took a couple of photos. There was another rock a short way away with a dark area where it overlapped the rock the octopus was on. Very slowly, the octopus oozed out a tentacle toward that dark area (top photo). Once the tip reached the shadow it appeared to drop anchor. Then the body of the octopus followed, hauled along on that anchored tentacle. A few moments later, the bulk of the octopus reached the shadows and slipped from view.

It was a slow, deliberate process and I couldn’t help laughing to myself. It appeared as though the octopus hoped that by sliding off in this incremental way I wouldn’t notice its departure. Such a pretty octopus though.

What color is this octopus?

The answer to the headline is that it depends on the moment and the background. I surprised this day octopus when I came around a corner and it instantly changed color. Then it moved and changed color again. I edged away and it moved and changed color again. It changed about five times over the course of a few minutes and each change was like hitting a light switch – one moment this, next moment that.

Their default color is a gray-brown, but I didn’t see that on this occasion. The red of the center photo is a reaction to being surprised and the two mottled patterns are camouflage attempts.

Posted in response to Becky’s July Squares challenge theme of ‘Perspective.’ See more responses here.

What a day for a day octopus

Day Octopus

Day Octopus on the moveThe trick to spotting an octopus is to see it in motion. I’ve seen one or two when they’ve been stationary, but only by accident, watching something else and realizing that there was something slightly odd about that ‘rock’ next to it.

When I do see an octopus, one of the first things I tend to notice is the siphon and the outdated facial recognition software that is my brain thinks, ‘that’s an eye.’ Except it isn’t.

In the top photo, the eyes of this day octopus can be seen at the highest point of the view. The siphon, orange on the outside and white inside, is below and a little to the right. The siphon, also known as the funnel or hyponome, is used for respiration, waste disposal, and discharging ink. It’s also used for locomotion. Water is taken in through the aperture around the siphon and then expelled out of the siphon, propelling the octopus in the opposite direction.

The bottom photo shows the octopus changing its coloration. They can change their color and texture to blend in with their surroundings. The middle photo shows the octopus saying ‘I’ve had enough of this. Arrivederci.’

Day Octopus on a rock

Touching octopuses

For Valentine’s Day I offer this photo of two day octopuses. It comes with a little story.

One day, while I was snorkeling, I noticed a stocky hawkfish about to plop onto a bit of coral. Before it could settle, a blue goatfish butted it away, getting my attention. I wondered if its presence might mean there was an eel or octopus around since they sometimes hunt together. Almost immediately, just beyond the goatfish, I noticed a day octopus glued to the side of a rock.

I took a couple of photos but knew they wouldn’t be very good; the octopus just looked like another lump of rock. So I began the usual dance I do with an octopus. I edge away, as though I’m leaving, keeping an eye on the octopus out of the corner of my eye. I know the octopus is watching me. Often, when I’ve gone a ways, the octopus will rise up onto whatever rock it’s hiding behind. If I’m quick, I can turn and get a photo before the octopus slides back down again. It’s like we’re connected by a line: I go away, the octopus rises. I return, the octopus sinks.

I swam behind a large chunk of rock, then peeked around the side. Still there, still hidden. A bit farther, another peek. Still there, still hidden. And again. And then I looked away momentarily and when I looked back, the octopus was gone. I think they, like many other creatures, watch a person’s eyes and if the person looks away, off they shoot.

It was a matter of a moment so I knew it couldn’t have gone far. I looked around, examining the rocks. Nothing. They can squeeze into tiny spaces so it was always possible I wouldn’t see it even if it was close by. Then, as I turned around, I caught a glimpse of movement and saw the octopus zip behind a bit of rock. Except then I immediately saw a second octopus follow the first.

I swam around the rock and saw the two of them, each in its own separate crack, a few feet apart. Again I took a couple of photos and then moved away. This time I went farther and waited, watching from a fair distance. Eventually, the octopus on the right of the photo emerged and moved toward the other one. I edged closer and began taking photos. It was then that that octopus slowly eased a tentacle toward the other one, sliding over the rock until it reached up and over the front of the other octopus. It was such a sweet and tender gesture, as though the octopus sought reassurance in making physical contact with its companion.

I took the photo and swam off, leaving them in peace.