The sea's intelligent arms

Known as 'vanishing ghosts' in the Hawaiian language, octopuses are the most intelligent of the cephalopods They are even claimed to have the intelligence of the domestic cat.

The sea's intelligent arms

In morning grogginess, it materialized silently at the bottom of a coral reef where green seaweed swayed gently as if in a mysterious dance. It spread its arms with abandon towards the sugar-white sands.

With red and orange decorative markings around its head, it appeared brown, or reddish brown, under the rays of the sun -still brilliant albeit less piercing in the deep blue water. Then suddenly it opened its big, still-sleepy eyes. Sparks of intelligence, easily visible even from several meters away, glinted in those amber orbs. Anyone seeing it would have sworn it was grinning mischievously. Slowly and smoothly it turned around. Its body's coppery tinge paled suddenly.

First it was yellow and grey-spotted. Then it took on an icy white hue. Assuming a perfect aerodynamic shape, it plunged swiftly into the sea's azure depths. Its long, now snow-white arms seemed to dance gracefully amidst the droplets of crystal foam it churned up as it swam. A great ball of white light, the octopus disappeared in the dark waters.

What we are talking about here is the sea's most intelligent eight-armed creature, the octopus, with such endurance that it can survive for 48 consecutive hours out of the water, can vanish in an instant when necessary, and can even pass through fire without feeling a thing.

Zoologists characterize the octopus as the only invertebrate with a fully functional brain and memory. Even years later, for example, octopuses are able to recognize a place of mortal danger and immediately distance themselves from it. If they lose one or more of their arms in an accident or an attack, they can quickly 'grow' a new one.

Completely harmless for humans, octopuses employ their strong arms either for hunting or for defense. Compared with invertebrates in general they have good vision. Attached to their heads and varying in length depending on the species, their powerful arms, which are also equipped with suction cups, are the octopus's most important weapon and organ of defense. Impressed by the strength of those arms, Victor Hugo in his book, 'Toilers of the Sea' describes them as being "as elastic as rubber, as strong as steel and as cold as the night."


Octopuses have some 240 suction cups in either single or double rows on each of their eight arms. They can change color in perfect camouflage with their hiding place and, most important of all, they have the patience to wait immobile for hours stalking their prey. They feed mainly on shellfish such as crabs, lobsters and mussels. The octopus, which demonstrates not only patience but also extreme intelligence during the hunt, employs a variety of different methods.


For example, even though it has strong muscles, it engages in no show of strength whatsoever when catching creatures like mussels whose shells are difficult to open. During the wait, which can sometimes take hours, the mussel inevitably opens its shell briefly for the purpose of feeding. And the octopus immediately injects a tiny stone between the two halves thus preventing the mussel from shutting it again. And then it's a perfect 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'! Octopuses also have two mortal weapons that they use for more difficult prey.

A beak in the center of their oral cavity and a kind of toxin they can secrete when needed. The beak is strong and sharp enough to crack even the hardest and thickest of shells. And the toxin, which is secreted by the salivary glands, affects the nervous system of the prey, causing death within a short time.


High in nutritional value, octopuses are hunted in all seasons. They in turn have developed various organs of defense for eluding hunters. The most important of these are their ability to change color and camouflage themselves, and the ink that they secrete brom glands between their gills. As the well-known oceanographer Jacques Cousteau has said, "I think that spewing ink creates a cloud of smoke that obscures the octopus, because the excretion remains suspended in the water without dkssipating, like a shadow with a tail, and this little silhouette is sufficient to conceal the octopus."

This ink also has the property of paralyzing for hours the olfactory sense of the moray eel, the octopus's greatest enemy. While it offers many advantages, the ink is also a weapon so dangerous as to potentially spell the demise of the octopus itself. Escaping after secreting its ink, the octopus can die of poisoning if it remains for even a few minutes in the cloud of ink of its own creation. And if wrapped in a damp cloth, this amazing creature can survive for up to 48 hours out of water.


Octopuses mate only once in their lives. The shy male changes color, turning red when it touches a female. The female octopus arranges her fertilized eggs in clusters. Of the 150-200 eggs in each cluster, only one will develop into a mature octopus. With the help of the delicate membranes in her arms, the female octopus handles the eggs carefully, going to great lengths to keep them clean.

She blows currents of water over them to provide them with enough oxygen. The octopus, which has a highly developed maternal sense, stops eating after depositing her eggs and waits five whole months for the young to hatch. When the babies are born at the end of this period of great self-sacrifice on the part of the mother octopus, she herself bids life farewell.

Dubbed the 'vanishing ghost' in the Hawaiian language, the octopus has the most highly developed nervous system among the mollusk family. The majority of marine biologists consider it the most intelligent invertebrate in the world. Indeed, there are even those who claim that the octopus is as intelligent as the domestic cat.

As oceanographer Neil McDaniel says: "there is a meaningful look in their eyes, as if they know us." Greetings to these most intelligent and lovable of marine creatures who, on our every dive between Keldağ and Saros, were waiting to be noticed, as if to say, "look at me". Who followed us with their friendly looks and even posed for us.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 27 Temmuz 2007, 00:42