Octopus
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Basic Information

The octopus is a type of mollusc having eight legs, and one beak, and which lives in the ocean. There are around 300 recognized octopus species. They are classed as cephalopods and are related to squid. Although all known octopi are marine, there is no obvious reason that a subspecies couldn't live in fresh water if suitably adapted.

Most don't have a skeleton, which is useful in letting them get almost anywhere. If threatened or pursued, they will expel ink or use color-changing camouflage to evade enemies. They all have venom, but the only one deadly enough to kill humans is the Blue-Ringed Octopus. Don't piss off an octopus character because you might not live long enough to tell the tale - and if you do, it might come after you later!

The octopus can live for as little as six months or up to five years. An octopus will die after mating, with males living only a few months, and females living until shorty after the ~200,000 eggs are hatched. The octopus will not eat after mating, but that's not what kills them. They have an optic gland that releases toxic chemicals into their system - if the gland is removed the octopus will live until dying of starvation.

They have three hearts which allow for specialized blood pumping - 2 pump blood through the 2 gills, and the other one pumps through the rest of the body. Octopus blood has copper-rich protein hemocyanin which isn't as efficient as the iron-rich hemoglobin we use, but in the cold deep waters of the ocean, where you mind low oxygen pressure it works just fine. It's also dissolved in the blood plasma instead of being carried in red blood cells, so the blood looks blue.

They are highly intelligent, showing both short and long term memory, and know the difference between shapes and patterns. Their limbs have an incredible range of motion and are very dexterous, allowing them to perform many complex tasks, such as unscrewing mason jars. They have been seen escaping their tanks in Aquariums to get to other locations they can see. The suction cups on the limbs have chemoreceptors allowing the octopus to taste anything it touches. This allows the octopus to find food anytime it brushes against it. Just imagine knowing what you can and can't eat when you're hiking in the woods barefoot - it's a bit like that.

The octopus can move by crawling or swimming but they spend the majority of their time crawling/walking slowly, and only swim part of the time. The fastest movement an octopus has is jet propulsion by taking in a large amount of water and jettisoning it quickly to give them a push that aids their swimming.[2]

Like squid, many species of octopi can be eaten and form a significant part of the diet of some cultures.

See Also

Sources

Video - Octopus unscrews a lid
Video - Octopus escapes through 1" hole
Video - Camouflage Cyanea Octopus gets a meal
Video - Shark Vs Octopus at Seattle Aquarium
Video - Octopus and Mimic Octopus
Video - Octopus looks just like a plant
Video - New Born Octopus babies in a fish tank
Video - Octopus climbs sheer wall of tank
Video - Blue Ringed Octopus

Bibliography
1. Through the Eye of an Octopus - essay on octopus intelligence

Game and Story Use

  • Adventure Seed: Tentacles of Space
  • Any character could be an octopus.
  • A villain could be an octopus.
  • Just because the octopus is aquatic does not mean that your game has to be - the elements of an octopus could be translated to ground-walking individuals (e.g. 3 hearts, 8 limbs, suction cups that taste)
    • Read this article about a fictional "sewer squid" - an amphibious octopus variant which has become urban vermin similar to rats and pigeons.
  • Even though the real life octopus is a gentle creature as a rule, they make good monsters to send against your players, simply because tentacles are freaking cool.
    • Er… not that I'm into tentacles or anything…
  • Because they are so different from terrestrial animals, octopi make good models for alien creatures.
  • The octopus is also sometimes used as a metaphor for any vast organization or conspiracy that has influence or control of a wide range of disparate elements.
    • A nice, if unsubtle, way to characterize a ruthless and greedy corporation is to have their logo be an octopus
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