Takeover Tuesday: World of The Octopus Edition

It’s #TakeoverTuesday! Thanks for joining me, I’m Ty. I’ve been working here at Newport Aquarium for about 3 years. I moved here from Texas where I worked at the San Antonio Zoo as an aquarist. My favorite aspect of this job is propagation and culturing. I enjoy watching things grow and see something that was once nothing, grow into something.

Jellyfish nursery

Behind-the-scenes with our jellyfish nursery.

 

Octopuses have been known to form attachments and bonds with their keepers. We try to spend as much time as we can with Simon. He can taste with his suction cups. Octopuses have as many 240 suction cups in each arm.

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All GPOs (Giant Pacific Octopuses) are different and have different characteristics and personalities, so forming these relationships helps us understand the specific needs and behaviors of the individual. Also, it’s fun!

suction cups

Octopuses have as many 240 suction cups on each arm.

Octopuses have many well-adapted senses. One unique way they sense is through taste, but octopuses don’t use a tongue to taste, instead they use suction cups. Each suction cup on an octopus arm has taste receptors that allow the animal to taste its surroundings. This helps to not only identify food, but also understand his surroundings, and to identify objects. They can even tell the difference between people using this adaptation, and can tell who they are interacting with based on that persons individual taste.

 

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GPOs are extremely intelligent animals so providing daily stimulus and activities is critical to the animal’s health. We provide different forms of enrichment, all are in the effort to bring out the animal’s natural behaviors as well as to keep the animal entertained and healthy.  We introduce things like common tools used to clean the exhibit, offering him a chance to feel different textures and get used to recognizing the different items we use on the exhibit. This helps him to recognize these tools and learn that they are not a threat. We also use toys, and puzzles to keep the GPO’s mind occupied and stimulated. We use things like hamster balls with food inside and allow the octopus a chance to figure out how to get to the food. This gives the octopus a chance to problem solve, with the end reward of a nice treat.

baster in water

Giant Pacific Octopuses are not the only thing you can see in this exhibit. Other invertebrates such as anemones and sea stars can also be found in the #WorldOfTheOctopus. We hand feed these animals chopped shrimp or fish. Sometimes we use turkey baster to feed smaller food items like krill or brine shrimp, by simply squirting the food in front of them and watch them collect them with their out reached arms.

GPO and not a pumpkin

Here’s a closeup of Simon, the octopus, and what looks like a pumpkin at the bottom of the tank. But that’s a plumose anemone.

plumose anemone

The hamster ball is a form of enrichment, it has a piece of shrimp inside it.

Sometimes you will see what looks like a pumpkin on exhibit. These are not pumpkins, but anemones. The plumose anemones on exhibit will look like giant pluming flowers when open with their arms extending to collecting any passing food. Once they collect the food, they will retract their arms and bring that food to their mouths and start to digest. That’s when they stop looking like flowers and more like a pumpkin. They will also retreat into this ball form when agitated as a way to protect themselves.

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When you’re not looking at the octopus, you might notice several species of sea star crawling around the tank. Using what are called ‘tube feet,’ they slowly crawl around looking for any food items that might be hiding around. Like the octopus, these tube like feet have suction cups at the end of them that allow them to taste their surroundings and stick to objects.

Simon the Giant Pacific Octopus

Simon like to move across the front of the tank. Octopuses are nocturnal, but he’s active in the morning, after he’s fed.

Another fun fact… The way you can tell a male from a female octopus is by looking at its arms. With male octopuses, the 3rd arm on the left side of body is smaller and has no suction cups at the end.

Thanks for joining me for this #TakeoverTuesday #WorldOfTheOctopus 🐙 edition!

Takeover Tuesday: Tide Pool Edition

Takeover Tuesday features a “day in the life” of biologists at Newport Aquarium. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Meet Margaret Elkanick, one of the biologists here at Newport Aquarium. She started out as an intern, and now she’s a biologist! Margaret’s been here for four years. Follow along on this #TakeoverTuesday 🐚 as she starts her morning at the Tide Pool.

Touch Pool Picture

We have quite a few Leather Sea Stars in our Tide Pool Touch Tank. They get their name from the smoothness of their skin- a result of the mucous they can excrete. In the photo, you can see hundreds of tiny “tube feet” on their underside. Sea stars use these for locomotion.Starfish Tube Feet

Most of the animals in the Tide Pool Touch Tank are fed a variety of food 2-3 times a week. These food items can include shrimp, squid, clam, or fish; the variety ensures they are receiving all the correct vitamins and nutrients.

Feeding sea star

Feeding a sea star in the Tide Pool.

You can find sea urchins moving around the tank, usually scraping algae off of the walls and rocks. They use five plates- called Aristotle’s Lantern- surrounding their mouths underneath their shell, or test, to scrape at the algae.

I am in the process of setting up a program to bring out animals for guests that might not be able to reach into the Touch Tank. I think it is important that all of our guests feel included in the experiences that we offer.

You can find this Decorator Crab in the tank right next to Tide Pool Touch Tank. They pick up pieces of seaweed and other small animals- such as the anemones you see here- and attach them to hooked setae on their shell. This helps them camouflage with their surroundings.

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The big-bellied seahorses’ prehensile tail is essential to their survival. They use it to cling on to plants or other objects so that the current does not cause them to drift away. Seahorses cannot handle stronger currents or fast moving water.

Big Bellied Seahorses (2)

Observations are an important part of a job. After dropping the food in, I go around to the front of the tank to make sure all of the seahorses are eating as a lack of appetite can be an indicator of a problem.

Watching Feed

Thank you for joining me for today’s #TakeoverTuesday!
To see previous posts click here.