Enteroctopus megalocyathusThe Falklands octopus, Enteroctopus megalocyathus
 
In 1866 European intellectuals first enjoyed the novel “Workers of the Sea” by the French writer Victor Hugo which soon become an international bestseller. One of the most dramatic episodes of the story described a desperate fight between a sailor and a huge octopus, which attacked him in a dark and gloomy water-covered grotto of the “English Channel archipelago”. An image of a literally bloodthirsty beast using its suckers to suck human blood probably resulted in many sleepless nights for romantic young ladies from both side of the Channel.

However this horrific scene turned out to be a pure fantasy. Octopus use their suckers to attach to rocks, to climb vertical surfaces and to keep prey, not to extract blood from hapless sailors. Most octopuses are absolutely harmless and friendly, like this Falkland Enteroctopus megalocyathus on the picture.

 

Investigating a footInvestigating a diver's foot.
 
Megalocyathus means – “big suckers”. And they are really large, though not so large as their closest relative from Japanese waters, Enteroctopus dofleini, which can grow to 300 cm and weigh as much as 50kg. Such a monster could easily kill a diver… would this animal be just a little bit aggressive.

Our “big – sucker – beastie” is smaller, its size usually not exceeding one meter with the maximum recorded weight slightly more than three kilos. It occurs at depths from a low tidal level to 150m in Atlantic and Pacific waters around the southern South America. South American fishermen highly appreciate its delicious taste. In the Falklands it is mainly consumed by sea lions for which it is an important part of the diet, and sometimes – dusky dolphins. Juvenile octopods live in kelp forests and around, and because of this may fall prey to cormorants.

 

Big suckersThe big suckers which give Enteroctopus megalocyathus its name.
 
The octopus itself feeds on tasty shellfish: crabs, shrimps, lobster krill, scallops and on small fish. It drills holes in crab carapaces and in the shells of molluscs using specialised teeth on the tongue, and then kills the prey using poison. Octopod poison usually is harmless to humans, the only deadly octopus is the Australian blue ringed octopus, Hapalochlaena. That one is a very picturesque and colourful creature, like a children’s toy, in contrast to our modest brownish-coloured animals, but its bite can kill a healthy adult in a few minutes.
 

Because it lacks a skeleton and is literally a knot of muscles, the octopus can easily squeeze through very narrow openings, behaving much like a live liquid. This ability helps the octopus to hide from predators in daytime. But in spite of having no backbone, it is one of the cleverest marine creatures – a primate of the sea. For example an octopus could easily learn to open a glass jar if it spies its favourite food inside.


Reproduction happens all year round, but mostly in spring. At copulation a male passes to the female a bunch of spermatophores – long and slender sperm containers of 20-30 cm length. Then the female lays up to 15 thousand eggs of about 1 cm in length that she broods in a sheltered place protecting them from predators. After all the eggs hatch the female dies. Males do not live much longer. Life span of the octopus is about 2 years, though its giant brother from North Pacific could live as much as 3-4 years.