Largest in the world, our giant Pacific octopus is also a pretty smart animal. Living only 3-5 years, they grow to 33lbs, an arm span of 14 feet and live in rocky dens from shallow waters down to 4500 feet in depth. Middens of consumed carcasses near dens show they eat pretty much anything they can catch – including sharks, dogfish and even an occasional bird, as well as crabs, clams and shrimp (which is crushes with a hidden bird-like beak. They also have the ability to change the color of their skin, creating a camouflage advantage in their hunting or hiding.
In response to their short lives, females lay an amazing 100,000 eggs, which they hang in a mass in her home which she obsessively maintains only to eventually die caring for her babies. Once hatched, few of the rice-grain sized eggs reach maturity, but enough do to maintain a seemingly stable population. In a Seattle Aquarium study it was shown one of their “giants” could identify individual humans, indicating they not only have good eyesight but are smart critters we should revere and respect.
Larry paints and blogs about wild places at larryeifert.com. His work can be seen in many national parks across America.