The waters off Hawaii’s coastlines are full of fascinating marine animals, but few have as many surprising qualities as the octopus. As researchers continue to discover incredible things about the capabilities of these remarkable invertebrates, they continue to grow in popularity. You’ll need sharp eyes and a lot of luck to spot an octopus on our tours, whether you opt for our Molokini or Lanai snorkeling tour, but if you do, you’re in for a treat. They’re a lot of fun to watch as they prowl around the reef in search of a meal. If you’re curious about the qualities that make the octopus stand out in comparison with its marine neighbors, here are our 10 Fun Facts About Octopus.
1. Native Hawaiian octopus species include the Night Octopus (he’e) and the Day Octopus (he’e-mākoko).
2. While octopuses are often described as having eight tentacles, the correct term is arms. Those arms contain two-thirds of the neurons in an octopus, meaning they are quite capable of functioning on their own, even if they’ve been cut off. And if an octopus does lose an arm, it simply grows a new one.
3. Octopuses are considered to be the most intelligent of all invertebrates. They’ve been documented not just learning from experience, but maintaining short- and long-term memory. They also improvise on shelter with whatever is available, such as coconut husks.
4. The skin of an octopus is capable of changing color, pattern and texture depending on the surrounding environment. This incredible camouflage ability isn’t the only thing that makes their skin special. It also contains the same light-sensitive proteins that are found in the eyes of the octopus. That means the skin can respond to the light around it without the eyes or the brain being involved.
5. As if their unparalleled camouflage skills weren’t enough, octopuses can release a cloud of black ink to obscure the view of an attacker as they slip away, like a ninja with a smoke bomb.
6. Octopuses have no bones in their bodies, which makes them incredibly flexible. It also means they can squeeze through tiny cracks.
7. Not only can they easily get out of things, but they can get into things as well. Researchers at the Seattle Aquarium tested a Pacific giant octopus against a childproof pill bottle. The octopus opened it in five minutes.
8. A common octopus has no less than 240 suckers on each arm, and just one large sucker can hold up to 35 lbs. The suckers can move individually and are extremely sensitive to what they touch.
9. Octopuses have three hearts. One pumps blood through the body, while the other two pump blood through each of their gills.
10. Octopuses typically live just a few years, and some species only live six months. This makes their problem solving abilities all the more impressive, because they have so little life experience to draw from in comparison with humans.
In addition to all these amazing qualities, the octopus is culturally significant in Hawaii. Na aumakua are considered to be physical embodiments of legends and mythology from Hawaii’s history, anchored in the form of an animal. These animals are revered as spiritual counselors, and the octopus is among Hawaii’s collection of aumakua. The lessons of the octopus aumakua are tied into qualities like flexibility, intelligence, and a multifaceted nature. So if you see one, a kupuna (elder) might tell you to embrace those qualities, and that there will be benefits if you do so!
If you have any questions about the creatures you encounter on our Maui snorkel tours, don’t hesitate to ask our knowledgeable staff, and they will be happy to answer. Mahalo!