The Eating Habits of Octopuses

The eating habits of octopi (a.k.a. “Octopuses” or “Octopodes”) are similar, although there are numerous known species. They are considered the most intelligent invertebrates (animals without skeletons) and can employ different ways of hunting, capturing, and eating their prey.

Octopi primarily enjoy crabs, lobsters, clams, crayfish, and other mollusks or crustaceans gathered from nighttime foraging. Depending on the species, octopi will also eat shrimp, sea snails, plankton, small sharks, fish, and even other octopi.

During a hunt, the highly intelligent octopus moves along the ocean floor, searching with its excellent eyesight. It also uses sensors in each of the suction cups along the bottom of the arms, which allow it to detect taste, smell, and texture. but remains under cover. Once the prey is found, the octopus will sneak up, and when the moment is right, rapidly move forward to grasp the victim. It then brings its prey back to the den to be eaten in privacy.

Octopi are ravenous eaters, making long hauls from nightly forays necessary, as they spend most of the day in their dens (except for a few species). Some larger octopuses typically eat up to eight crabs a night, and an observant SCUBA diver can probably spot an octopus lair from the empty shells and other debris littering the den entrance. For some smaller species, the den can be an old tire, a coffee can, a boot, or some other dark hiding space.

The octopus has three great advantages when feeding: Suckers, a beak, a drill, and a raspy tongue. With more than 1900 strong suckers on eight powerful arms (not tentacles), an octopus grabs, holds, or crushes its food. Just outside the mouth is a sharp, parrot-like beak that can break apart shells.

If a shell is to too tough to simply break apart, the octopus can drill away the shell using an organ called a salivary papilla. After drilling a pinhole, the octopus eats the soft interior meat. Alternatively, the octopus may use its radula, a tongue-like organ covered with chitinous bumps that resemble curved teeth. The papilla and the radula are inside the mouth.

In addition to all this “hardware,” the octopus uses its venomous saliva to weaken the prey. Overall, feeding octopi are not to be tangled with.

A female octopus with a new brood will not eat at all during her continuous watch over her eggs. Because of this multiple-month stakeout, many octopus mothers barely live long enough to see their young hatch.

Other octopus species include Common Atlantic Octopus (“Octopus Vulgaris”), North Pacific Giant Octopus (“Octopus Dofleini”), Pacific Red Octopus (Octopus Reubescens”), Big Blue or Day Octopus (“Octopus Cyanea”), California Two-spot Octopus (“Octopus Bimaculoides”), Mimic Octopus, (“Octopus Mimicus”), Lesser Blue-ringed Octopus (“Hapalochlaena Maculosa”), Greater Blue-ringed Octopus (“Hapalochlaena Lunulata”), Reef Octopus (“Octopus Briarius”), Carribean Armstripe or Brownstripe Octopus (“Octopus Burryi”), and Atlantic Longarm Octopus (“Octopus Defilippi”).

Read also: how do octopuses reproduce

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