Giant Pacific Octopus Fact File
Credit: Laika ac from UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Wild 4-5 years
Captive 405 years
The World's Largest Octopus!
The giant pacific octopus is the world's largest species of octopus and can reach weights of up to 272kg (600lbs) in their Pacific Ocean home.
Like most octopus species they are highly intelligent and have shown the ability to open jars, solve mazes and form bonds with their caregivers when held in an aquarium.
Females are so dedicated to protecting the eggs they lay that they will not eat while they care for them and as a result they pass away soon after their young pass away.
This species has a large population but is capture for the aquarium trade and food.
Learn more about these incredible invertebrates below.
What does the Giant Pacific Octopus look like?
Across their body the giant pacific octopus is a reddish pink color. Below the skin are special pigment cells known as chromatophores which allow them to change color and blend in with the rocks around them.
Octopuses have eight appendages extending from their body known as arms. Along each arm is two rows of suction cups with a total of up to 2,250 across their body. These help them to grip on to objects.
Their body is soft and mostly formed from muscle. The hardest section is the beak which helps them to cut through prey. This beak is formed from keratin, the same substance as human fingernails.
The flexibility of their body allows these animals to move easily in and out of small crevices in the rock.
They are the largest species of octopus on Earth. The largest individual on record measured 9m (30ft) across and weighed 272kg (600lbs). Average individuals weigh 59kg (132lbs) and measure 4.9m (16ft) across.
Males tend to have less of the suction cups on their arms than females.
How does the Giant Pacific Octopus survive in its habitat?
Giant pacific octopus are fitted with nine brains. One central brain helps to control the nervous system while the other eight are used to control each of the arms.
The blood of these animals is colored blue. This is due to the copper-rich protein called hemocyanin in their blood which is useful for transporting oxygen around their body in cold environments.
These animals are part of the mollusk family alongside snails and clams. They lack the hard, external shell seen in these animals and instead rely on their color-changing abilities to hide them from predators. Despite this color-changing ability this species has been shown to be colorblind.
Secretions within the saliva of the giant pacific octopus can help to soften their prey so they can consume it.
This species is able to have an arm removed by a predator following which they will grow it back.
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What does the Giant Pacific Octopus eat?
Giant pacific octopus are carnivores. Their diet includes a range of other invertebrates and other animals such as fish, sea birds and the eggs of sharks. On occasion they have been recorded eating sharks.
In their larval stage this species will feed on plankton.
Outside of their den the adults maintain a pile known as a midden where they deposit any parts of their prey which they cannot consume.
These animals are venomous and inject this in to their prey using the beak.
Learn more about the Giant Pacific Octopus in this video from Deep Marine Sciences on YouTube
Where do you find the Giant Pacific Octopus?
The giant pacific octopus is found in the waters of the North Pacific ocean. They are known from the coasts of the North American and Asian continents along with Japan.
Where can the Giant Pacific Octopus survive?
These animals are found among sand and mud along with rocky reef areas. They will squeeze in to dens among the rock.
Credit: Public Domain
How does the Giant Pacific Octopus produce its young?
This species will breed during the summer with the animals moving in to deep water to undergo this process.
Males are able to mate with multiple females but females will only reproduce once.
Females move inshore during autumn and winter where they will spawn up to a 100,000 eggs. These are deposited as strings in rock crevices. Each egg is roughly the size of a grain of rice.
The incubation period of their eggs will vary based on the temperature of the water being anywhere between 5 and 6 months.
Females remain close by and guard the eggs while they develop. While she is guarding the eggs she fans them with her arms to provide oxygen. During this time she does not eat and as a result it is common for her to pass away once the young hatch.
At hatching the larvae are tiny and live among plankton for 1-2 months.
What does the Giant Pacific Octopus do during its day?
These animals will emerge at night to hunt their prey.
Like many other species of octopus they are very intelligent and have been seen opening jars and performing other tasks. To date they are the only invertebrates which have been recorded demonstrating play behaviors.
For much of their life this species is considered solitary only coming together to mate at the end of their life.
Credit: Public Domain
Predators and Threats
What stops the Giant Pacific Octopus from surviving and thriving?
Natural predators of the giant pacific octopus include sharks, sea lions, seals and fish. Land animals such as the mink may also enter the water to hunt them.
If threatened by a predator the giant pacific octopus can produce a cloud of black ink which helps to prevent the predator seeing where they escape to. This is toxic and may be fatal for the creature contained within it if there is little flow of water through the space.
No estimate of their population has been prepared. The species is subject to fishing and at high levels this may impact on their survival. Large individuals which are captured for the food trade may be sold off to aquariums.
Climate change is increasingly affected this species as the warmer ocean temperatures disrupt growth of the eggs.
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Octopuses are part of the cephalopod group which means 'head-foot.' This group also includes squid and cuttlefish.
They were first described for modern science during 1910.
This species may also be referred to as the North Pacific Octopus.
Credit: Public Domain
Allcock, L., Taite, M. & Allen, G. 2018. Enteroctopus dofleini. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T162958A958049. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T162958A958049.en. Accessed on 14 April 2022.
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Ocean Conservancy. 2022. Giant Pacific Octopus – Ocean Conservancy. [online] Available at: <https://oceanconservancy.org/wildlife-factsheet/giant-pacific-octopus/> [Accessed 14 April 2022].
Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. 2022. Giant Pacific octopus – Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. [online] Available at: <https://www.pdza.org/animals/pacific-seas-aquarium/giant-pacific-octopus/> [Accessed 14 April 2022].
Rosamond Gifford Zoo. 2022. Giant Pacific Octopus – Rosamond Gifford Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://rosamondgiffordzoo.org/experience/animals/invertebrates/giant-pacific-octopus/> [Accessed 14 April 2022].