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Octopuses, derived from the Greek for ‘eight-footed’, are members of the cephalopod class which also includes the ancient nautilus and the ‘ten-footed’ squid and cuttlefish. These cephalopods, unlike most other molluscs, have evolved to live without the protection of a hard shell. They have instead developed complex behaviors based on camouflage, escape mechanisms and various intelligent strategies. In fact this group is considered to be the smartest of the invertebrates and much research focuses on their unique physical and neuronal modifications. The octopus has a characteristically large head and a beak-like jaw which it uses to bite its prey of crab or fish. It will then inject the prey with a cocktail of poison and digestive enzymes which prepare it for ingestion.
The northern, horned or curled octopus is typically reddish yellow in color with long slender tentacles that hold one staggered row of suckers and curl at the tips, characteristics which distinguish it from its rather muted and thick- armed cousin, the Common Octopus. It can be found in the north-eastern Atlantic and throughout the Mediterranean Sea.
For a fascinating view of his research around the wily octopus and its dexterity, watch this descriptive video by cephalopod biologist, Dr. Roger Hanlon, Senior Scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA.
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