Octopus are among our favorite marine life to see when diving in Maui waters. We see Octopus in the shallow reef, in deeper structures as well. Being masters of camouflage, spotting an octopus, or Tako as they are commonly referred to in Hawaii, takes some practice. Here are a few things you might want to know about octopus before your next Maui dive with us.
1. There are two common types of Native Hawaiian octopus species in Hawaii. One, He’e, is the night species which is a reddish color with spots. The other type is a smaller, day species called the he’e-mākoko with brownish skin.
2. An Octopus’ tentacles are called arms in correct terminology. If an arm separates from an octopus, it will regrow a new arm in its place.
3. Octopuses are camouflage masters and change color, pattern and texture to blend into their surroundings.The octopus skin can do this automatically without needing any brain cues.
4. If a predator is threatening and the octopus does not feel the camouflage is enough of a protection, it will release a cloud of black ink.
5. Octopuses are able to fit through the smallest openings because they have no bones in their bodies!
6. Of all the invertebrates, Octopuses are considered to be the most intelligent and have been documented to maintain both long-term and short-term memory. Due to this intelligence, this species can improvise with whatever is available like using coconut husks as a shelter.
7. Octopuses are surprisingly skilled and are able to get into things that are considered hard for other species, or even children. For example, the Seattle Aquarium researches tested a Pacific Giant Octopus with a child-proof-pill-bottle and it opened it within five minutes.
8. There are 240 suckers on each arm of an octopus and each one can move individually on its own and hold up to 35 lbs. These octopus suckers are very sensitive to what it touches.
9. There are three hearts in one octopus! One heart is responsible for pumping the blood through the body while the other two hearts are responsible for pumping blood through the gills.
10. While some species of octopus live only six months, most octopus in Hawaii live a few years. Because of this short life span, it is even more impressive how advanced their problem solving abilities are in comparison to human’s long life span of experience.
Recent research shows that octopus arms may have a separate thinking system that takes action without waiting for a command from the octopus brain. Being the octopus is a cephalopod, there is no centralized nervous system (like the human brain and nervous system) and therefore, the information processes directly from the neurons. According to American Geophysical Union, without the brain being aware of it, the octopus arms can send information to each other! In other words, the arms of an octopus seem to work more as a team that is independent of the brain.
In addition to these unique and impressive qualities, the octopus has a large cultural significance in Hawaii and is often revered as an aumakua. Na aumakua are considered to be physical embodiments of ancestors, spiritual legends, or even mythological characters from Hawaii’s history, present in the form of an animal. Many families have specific aumakua that are sacred to their genealogy and historical line. Hawaii’s god of the ocean, Kanaloa, had several body forms he could manifest into and often took the form of the octopus. So, if an octopus appears around you, a kupuna (elder) might remind you of the flexibility, intelligence, and multifaceted qualities to embrace this creature and the blessings that come with it!
Banner photo credit: Cesere Brothers Fine Art and Underwater Photography.