Five sort-of signs of the octopus uprising
Monday, March 16, 2015, 6:10 AM - This month, we couldn't help but notice there have been an awful lot of octopus stories in the news lately.
It could just be a coincidence, or we could just be remembering them more than stories about other things (octopuses are pretty fascinating, after all).
Or perhaps the hyper-intelligent, many-armed ocean dwellers are planning something.
It's, um, probably just a coincidence, but here's a look at the evidence to the contrary.
They’re figuring out how to escape from us
Octopuses are common, and popular, aquarium features. They occupy that happy medium between cutesy cephalopod and tentacled terror, and it’s safe to say we are a bit drawn to their fabled intelligence.
They’re so intelligent, in fact, that it’s didn’t take long for the one in the video below to figure out there was exactly nothing standing between it, and sweet freedom outside its tank:
We can only speculate what our many-armed friend thought of the shrieks of aquarium-goers when his tentacles reached the top of the tank. And we should point out, there’s really very few places on the plexiglass interior for it to gain a foothold (armhold?), so its achievement is impressive.
It all came to nothing, of course. Its human masters intervened to “help” it back into its tank, and it was apparently sealed with an “evening cap.”
The aquarium played down the incident (a spokesman said the octopus, with the imaginative monicker ‘Ink’, was “exploring his boundaries” in a new exhibit.
Right. All the same, they better make sure that cap is screwed on tightly. Octopuses have neither bones, nor any kind of compunction about squeezing their large masses through any kind of opening, no matter the size.
Take a look at the big one below, somehow channeling its bulk through a gap barely large enough for a human hand:
Also ominously? The Seattle Aquarium apparently plans to release Ink back into Puget Sound … armed with new intelligence on the limitations of its captors’ would-be prisons.
They’re learning our technology
Octopuses in captivity have plenty of time to observe us, even as we mistakenly think it is we who are the observers.
And the savvy cephalopods surely can't have failed to notice we’re all carrying around little devices that we keep pointing toward them (or, more likely, pointing toward ourselves).
It’s not a stretch to assume Octopuses reckon our cameras, from smartphones to SLRs, are an integral part of our civilization. So, if they really are plotting our downfall, it makes sense that they’d want to figure out how they works.
And here we have a gif of the efforts of one such pioneer:
Digital media producer Benjamin Savard (the chap in glasses and a lab coat) was supposed to be shooting an octopus under study by neuroscientists in Vermont, but when he inserted a GoPro into the tank, the prisoner, showing remarkable presence of mind, seized its chance.
"I think the octopus's timing was great. I was just in the right place at the right time,” Savard told the Washington Post.
We’ll agree the result was actually not a bad series of shots:
Still, was it just a curious captive playing with a new toy (and probably trying to eat it later)? Or was it a loyal footsoldier (er, armsoldier) in an octopus army that, like its buddy in the Seattle Aquarium, is making the most of its incarceration to learn the ways of its jailers?
It’s not just captive octopuses. Watch the five-year-old video, below, of one in the wild actually snatching a camera from a diver:
The shooter even says they were “panicking a bit” when the encounter began, as it seemed the octopus was going for his wrist. But not so: It was the camera he wanted, and he took it without hassle.
Next time you’re around an octopus, hang on to your tech, just in case.
They're probing our weaknesses (or maybe just being friendly)
This encounter is simultaneously ominous – and a heart-warming counterargument to the evidence the octopuses are up to no good.
Natasha Dickinson was diving with friend Jackie Hildering off Port Hardy, B.C., when a nearby octopus casually draped itself around her head in what, by all accounts, would seem to have been a friendly hug:
While we, ourselves, would have been freaked out by the encounter, Dickinson kept her cool, secured her respirator just in case, and let the newcomer “explore.” After a couple of minutes of this, it ambled away, seeking a meal, while the divers followed.
Her dive buddy Hildering posted a number of awesome shots on her blog, which she said were meant to pull back the veil on these sometimes misunderstood creatures.
“Any negative encounters between divers and Giant Pacific Octopuses that I am aware of, result from divers manhandling them “insisting” on an encounter or involve individuals that are habituated to being fed by humans,” Hildering writes.
That would explain the video in the previous entry of that octopus nabbing the guy’s camera out at sea. He WAS getting a little too close, and when his quarry reacted, it just yanked his camera and sped off.
As for the B.C. specimen, we’re not sure whether it really was just curious … or feeling that diver out to determine our biological weaknesses.
And anyways, both explanations lead to pretty much the same conclusion: If you’re out diving and you run into the largest octopus species known to man, don’t be mean to it.
NEXT: Octopus snatches crab from the edge of a rockpool, drags it to its doom