Blue Ringed Octopus

BLUE RINGED OCTOPUS (Hapalochlaena lunulata)
Pronounced: (Ha-pa-low-klay-na loo-nyu-la-tu) Order: Octopoda
Kingdom: Animalia Family: Octopodidea
Phylum: Mollusca Genus: Hapalochlaena
Class: Cephalopoda Species: lunulata


This deceivingly innocent-looking mollusc is one of the most dangerous creatures in the world, and the only octopus to use venom as both an attack and defense strategy. In fact, it uses two different toxins depending upon whether it is attacking prey or defending against the attack of another creature. As if that wasn’t enough advantages for any one animal, Hapalo can also regrow limbs if they break or are torn off. Now add a drill-like tongue and strong suckers along each leg, and you have a tiny, but lethal, carnivore. In fact, the toxin in blue-ringed octopi is more potent than that of any known land animal.

The blue-ringed octopus makes its home in the shallow waters near Australia and Japan. It is normally shy and nonaggressive. Females lay between 50 and 100 eggs which, unlike other octopi, they guard carefully by carrying them under a tentacle for about 50 days until they hatch. She’s only the size of a golf-ball, so in comparison, her babies are about the size of a pea when the hatch. After that, they’re on their own – having been given a head start by one mean (but protective) mama. The mother has gone 50 days without eating while she protects her eggs, and dies soon after they hatch into planktonic paralarvae.

There are about 10 different species of blue-ringed octopi. Two well-known examples are the Lesser and Greater Blue-Rings. The Lesser Blue-Ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena maculosa) has smaller rings, but more of them – over 25 on their slightly larger bodies. The Greater Blue Ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena lunulata) is smaller, about 12 cm from head to tentacle tip, but has larger blue rings. These rings become more pronounced as the octopus gets excited, providing him with warning coloration that says, “get away – I’m dangerous!”. If a predator doesn’t listen to the warning, the octopus then uses a toxic saliva so intense it causes immediate paralysis in a nearby animal. The detail of how it kills its prey and attackers is still unknown – it may be that the octopus bites to pass the saliva into the other animal, or that just spitting the toxin nearby is enough to cause paralysis and death.

The only thing lacking in this octopus is an ink sack – but really, they hardly miss it. Well armed with other arsenal, they hunt for crabs and shrimp, latching onto them with strong suckers, and killing them with neuromuscular venom. Then they pierce through the tough shells with drill-like tongues and crunch them with their beaks.

Not cool enough? They also have jet propulsion abilities – taking in water through a tube that directs it over their gills and squirting it out through a siphon or funnel apparatus to speed through the water.


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