Inky the octopus at National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier. Photo by National Aquarium of New Zealand.
Inky, an octopus at the National Aquarium of New Zealand, made a spectacular nighttime escape. The contortionist octopus squeezed through a tiny gap at the top of his enclosure, then scuttled 8 feet across the floor to a drain pipe. After sliding 164 feet down the pipe, he dropped down to freedom (or specifically, Hawke’s Bay which opens out into the Pacific Ocean).
According to the aquarium’s manager, Rob Yarrall, “He managed to make his way to one of the drain holes that go back to the ocean, and off he went. Didn’t even leave us a message.”
Blotchy the octopus (Inky’s aquarium mate) decided against adventure and remained at the aquarium.
Unlike humans, octopuses are not constantly aware of the location of their arms. So with eight limbs in motion, it’s a wonder how their arms don’t get tangled up together.
According to researcher Guy Levy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “We thought about it and we said, ‘How is it possible that the arms don’t grab each other?'”
Levy and his colleague Nir Nesher conducted a series of experiments with octopus arms. They observed that the suckers on the octopus arm would grab objects within its reach, but it would not grab anything with octopus skin. Their studies suggested that octopus skin has a repellent chemical. The sucker on an octopus arm can “taste” this repellent, so it does not grab on to it.
According to Roger Hanlon, of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, “In fact, many of the sensory neurons known to occur in cephalopod suckers have unknown functions. The authors have widened our view of octopus sensory perception and provided some stimulating research questions to pursue.”
For more on this study, including a podcast, visit the NPR website.
Sometimes animals outsmart us. This year, we witnessed several bold and cunning escapes.
Otter Escapes from Kansas Zoo
Kyra, a resident of the Hutchinson Zoo in Kansas, escaped from her zoo habitat on Valentine’s day and spent the week pond-hopping. Easily catching fish in other area ponds, she was unfazed by zookeeper attempts to lure her back with fish treats. But finally, she succumbed to the temptation of a hard-boiled egg.
Octopus Escapes New Zealand Aquarium
An octopus named Sid spent 5 days on the lam after escaping from his tank in a New Zealand aquarium. Sid managed to elude detection for those days by hiding in a drain that pumped fresh sea water into the aquarium. He was caught after being spotted making a dash for an open door.
Orangutan Plans Great Escape from Adelaide Zoo
Jamming a stick into the wires of the electric fence surrounding her, Karta, a 27-year old orangutan, short-circuited the system. She then piled up debris near the concrete and glass wall and climbed out. However, after literally sitting on the fence for half an hour, she decided to go back in the enclosure after all.
Wily Prairie Dogs Escape New Exhibit at Maryland Zoo
Ten minutes after the opening of a new $500,000 prairie dog exhibit, the clever rodents found multiple escape routes. Climbing and jumping over the walls, the prairie dogs had zoo workers in a frenzy chasing after them with nets.
Chimp Escape at the Chester Zoo
Thirty chimpanzees escaped from their enclosure at the Chester Zoo in England. They made their way into a food preparation area and had the feast of their lives.
For the first time octopuses have been observed using tools. Researchers discovered that veined octopuses, found off the coast of Indonesia, use coconut shells to build armor for themselves. The octopuses where spotted collecting coconut shells and taking them when they moved to protect themselves from potential predators.
This marks the first time an invertebrate has been discovered to use tools.
Octopuses are very smart creatures. And it seems they’re always in the news creating mischief. There was Otto the octopus in Germany who climbed to the rim of his aquarium and shot water at the overhead light shorting it out. And more recently, Sid the octopus in New Zealand escaped from his tank and hid in a drain for five days.
The latest octopus making headlines is Truman from the New England Aquarium who managed to squeeze his 7-foot body into a 14-inch square plastic box. Truman’s caretakers had placed a few crabs inside a 6-inch box, latched it, and then placed the small box inside the 14-inch box and latched that. In this way, it would serve as an enrichment activity for Truman because he would have to figure out how to unlatch the first box and then the second box in order to eat the crabs. But instead, Truman decided to skip a step and just squeeze his head and legs through a 2-inch hole in the large box. Once inside, he got to work on unlatching the smaller box.
An octopus named Sid spent 5 days on the lam after escaping from his tank in a New Zealand aquarium. Sid managed to elude detection for those days by hiding in a drain that pumped fresh sea water into the aquarium. He was caught after being spotted making a dash for an open door. Though hungry, Sid was unhurt. The aquarium staff decided that it was best to release Sid, who is an older octopus, back into the wild.
Otto, an octopus living in Germany, has been wrecking havoc in his aquarium. His keepers believe his is bored while the aquarium is closed for the winter and causing trouble to amuse himself. Otto has figured out how to climb on the rim of his aquarium and shoot a jet of water into an overhead light shorting it out. He’s also been observed juggling hermit craps and rearranging the tank to fit his needs, causing distress to his tank-mates.