The giant pacific octopus, known scientifically as Enteroctopus doflein, is a cephalopod found throughout the Pacific Ocean and is considered the world’s largest octopus species.
Scientists have taught these brilliant animals to open jars, mimic other animals, and solve mazes in lab tests.
Characteristics & Appearance
Weight & Length
The average giant octopus grows to a length of about 16 feet from the top of its body to the tip of its arms and weighs between 70 and 110 pounds, making it the world’s largest octopus species. It grows to its largest size when living in the North Pacific’s colder waters and tends to be smaller when living in warmer waters.
Although they are large animals, octopuses can squeeze their bodies to fit through any space larger than its beak. Female giant Pacific octopuses are generally larger than males. How big they grow depends on the availability of light, nutrients, and temperature in their habitats.
Physical Characteristics and Color
The giant Pacific octopus stands are typically a reddish-brown color with massive bulbous heads and a mantle. Each of the octopus’s eight arms has two rows of suckers. Females have a total of 2,240 suckers; males have about 100 fewer suckers than their female counterparts.
The mantle houses the octopus’s organs, including the kidneys, liver, stomach, gills, reproductive organs, intestine, and brain. Since octopuses are mollusks and don’t have outer shells, they use their camouflage abilities to blend into their surroundings and stay safe.
It has a bulb-shaped body, and its mouth is on its underside, where its arms come together. Its mouth has a beak made of keratin (fingernails, hair, and rhinoceros horns are also made of keratin), which it uses to kill prey and chew it up into pieces before swallowing. It secretes blank ink when threatened.
Lifespan & Reproduction
The Giant Pacific Octopus has one of the most extended lifespans of any octopus species, living from three to five years. Females reach maturity between two and three years of age. Octopuses of both genders live independently and only breed once during their lifetimes.
Males approach mature females to mate by extending one of their arms to caress them. If the female is receptive, the male grasps the female with its hectocotylus (a modified arm), inserting spermatophore into the female’s mantle. The female can keep the spermatophore in her body many months before fertilization.
Once mating has occurred, the male octopus stops eating, spending more time at sea. The male’s physical condition declines, and a predator typically kills it. The female octopus stops hunting after mating. Once her eggs are fertilized, the female lays tens of thousands of eggs.
She attaches the eggs to a hard surface and guards them for about five to six months until they hatch. During that time, the female doesn’t eat. Instead, she spends her time cleaning the eggs, blowing water over them, and ensuring they get oxygen. Once the eggs hatch, the female dies, and most of the hatchlings die before reaching adulthood.
Where Does the Giant Pacific Octopus Live?
The Giant Pacific Octopus lives throughout the Pacific Ocean. These aquatic animals live off the coasts of Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, British Columbia, Korea, Japan, and Russia. It thrives in cool, oxygenated water and moves from the surface to a depth of 6600 as needed.
They are found in rocky coastal areas at depths of up to 300 feet. They thrive in cold, nutrient-rich surroundings and are commonly found in tide pools and crevices. They’re found living in dens and lairs, as well as under boulders or in rock crevices. To hide from predators, they often secure themselves using piles of rocks and other items to create a safe room.
Food & Diet
What Does the Giant Pacific Octopus Eat?
The giant Pacific octopus is a carnivore and eats a wide variety of seafood, including clams, crabs, fish, small sharks, seabirds, and other octopuses. They typically hunt at night, using their tentacles and suckers to restrain their prey.
They use their sharp beaks to puncture and tear flesh and seem to eat any animal within their size range. After eating, the octopus discards its prey’s shell, stacking it in a pile outside its den. The stack of shells is known as an octopus’s garden.
Threats and Predators
Although the Giant Pacific Octopus is not considered an endangered species, it faces threats in the wild. The primary threat to these octopuses comes from overfishing.
The primary human threat facing the Giant Pacific Octopus comes from overfishing. These octopuses tend to get caught in commercial fishing pots when they prey upon the already caught fish. Although the octopuses are typically returned to the wild immediately after capture, they often suffer from high mortality.
Climate Change & Global Warming
Octopuses rely on oxygenated water to maintain their eyesight, which they use to hunt food near the surface and spot predators in their midst. Global warming could cause octopuses to go blind as the oceans’ oxygen levels decline due to climate change.
The damage could be especially significant near the surface, where oxygen levels are already inconsistent due to natural wind and water circulation patterns. Climate change has already led to increased numbers of octopuses. Since octopus reproduces relatively quickly, easily adapt, climate change can speed up their ability to reproduce.
Given octopuses are voracious eaters, an increase in their numbers will have a far-reaching impact on the ocean. It’s not an exaggeration to say that they are taking over the ocean. If this continues, it will have repercussions for other marine life.
Sea Otters, harbor seals, sharks, and sperm whales prey on juvenile and adult giant Pacific octopuses. Humans are arguably the giant Pacific octopus’s greatest predator. Humans have hunted these creatures for food and to use as bait for pacific halibut.
However, adult giant Pacific octopuses are adept at avoiding predation by camouflaging themselves, hiding in protective dens, or hiding among the kelp. Their jet propulsion abilities allow them to make a quick escape, followed by a cloud of black ink to hide from predators. They also use their arms to fight off predators.
Living in environments with high pollution levels can cause distress and suffering among the Giant Pacific Octopus because they are sensitive to environmental conditions.
The IUCN red list does not include the giant Pacific octopus on its list of at-risk species. It is not protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. While it is commercially fished in some parts of the world, this hasn’t significantly affected its population size.
It is challenging to track the giant Pacific octopus, making it challenging to evaluate its numbers. Although it’s not endangered, pollution and climate change are threats to this animal. These octopuses are usually able to escape to warm water zones for cooler oxygenated water. However, some populations may remain trapped in low-oxygen zones.
Fun Facts About Giant Pacific Octopuses
- They can change color in one-tenth of a second, and their blood is blue.
- Since they’re mollusks, they belong to the same family as snails and clams.
- They’re venomous, and their sharp beaks allow them to deliver a painful bite when provoked.
- Giant Pacific octopuses have three hearts. Their bodies use two of the hearts to pump blood to their gills for reoxygenation. The third heart circulates blood throughout their bodies and tentacles.
- The largest giant Pacific octopus ever found weighed in at a whopping 600 pounds with a 30-foot arm span.
- They’re highly intelligent with complex and well-developed nervous systems. They also have unique personality traits.
- This breed are solitary creatures that spend most of their time in their dens until it’s time for them to go out in search of food.
- There have been instances of giant octopus attacks on humans, however none have been deadly or harmful
- They can be found more than 330 feet underwater.