Rich Ross

Hasa diga eebowai

Coconut Octopus grows and opens jars

http://vimeo.com/28020083

In the three months since we put an Amphiocotpus marginatus we collected in the Philippines on display at the Steinhart Aquarium, the octopus, named Fontenelle, has been engaging visitors to the aquarium. Fontenelle is in plain sight 95% of the time, often in interesting ‘lookout’ poses, playing with toy squid and toy octopus, or moving its den from jars to bottles to clay pots while keeping an eye on the people watching its antics. This species is one of the boldest cephalopods I have worked with, hunting with startling speed and latching onto my arm with that same unnerving speed anytime I have to put  my hand in the tank. The growth rate on this animal is amazing, and since we decided not to be invasive with gathering data with this animal because we don’t want to stress it as we learn its husbandry needs (this may be the first time this species has been on public display) the two pictures below show the growth of the octopus in just a few months.

Even more exciting, Fontenelle has learned how to open jars by unscrewing the jars lid, one of the more captivating behaviors that octopus can learn (another being squirting me in the eye when I bring shrimp). The octopus has been opening jars for a couple of weeks already, and actually learned within a couple of days, but I have been unable to capture the opening on video. Either the jar is open before I get to the front of the tank, or the jar gets opened when I leave to attend to other animals. Today I set up the tripod before putting the jar in the tank and was able to catch the act on video. Its hard to see the actual unscrewing of the lid, and the final opening of the jar looks like the octopus simply pulls the lid up, but trust me, to get to that point the lid had to be unscrewed. Now, its time to start with other jars with more threads on the lid, tightening the lid much more, and finding other objects in which to hide food.

A. marginatus on bottle in display on June 1, 2011
The same octopus in the same bottle on August 10, 2011.
This lookout position is sometimes held for over 10 minutes

Commensal fish and Mimic Octopus? Science in action!

From Advanced Aquarist blog and TONMO

Last week Godehard Kopp posted the video above of a Mimic Octopus, Thaumoctopus mimicus, and an un identifiable fish swimming amongst its arms at the divesite Jahir in the famous muck diving area of Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi Indonesia (the video of the octopus and fish starts at about. :44). Kopp followed the one octopus and fish for 15 minutes filming what appeared to be a previously unknown fish/octopus comensal relationship – a relationship in which one organism derives a benefit while the other is unaffected. Flurries of emails lit up the interwebs as fish and cephalopod and fish enthusiasts tried to determine what was actually going on in the video. Is this a commensal relationship or is something else going on?

The colors of the fish were so matched to the arms of the octopus, that it could easily be thought that this fish must have a previously un-described commensal relationship with the octopus. On the other hand, there are small fishes that swim around foraging octopus arms in search of an easy meal, so it could be that this was simply taking advantage of a possible easy meal as the octopus made its way across the muck. On the third hand, these octopus have been photographed and filmed so much in this area of the world that it might be hard to believe that this behavior had never been seen before. Perhaps the fish happened to be in the wrong place and got scared as the Kopp moved to film in, and was trying to hide in the frist thing it found – the octopus.

Initially, the fish was thought to be some kind of Blenny, but quickly the tide turned and it was thought to be some kind of Jawfish. Soon a more positive ID was soon made: Black Marble Jawfish, Stalix histrio (or another fish in the Stalix genus) shown below from Indonesian Reef Fishes by Kuiter, R.H. & T. Tonozuka. (2001). Since both the fish and the octopus live in, and are trying to blend in with, the same muck background, it makes some kind of sense that the two should share the same kinds markings and color patterns. Of course, there could still be some relationship between the fish and the octopus, more study is needed, but even if this isn’t commensal, it seems to be a brand new behavior for the fish (and possibly a new fish species!)

It was great to watch science in action in regards to this video. Observation, hypothesis, evidence, discussion, new hypothesis changing minds – science rules!

Indonesian Reef Fishes by Kuiter, R.H. & T. Tonozuka. (2001).

Sepia latimanus are 6 months old and flashing colors like adults

From TONMO and Reefbuilders

http://vimeo.com/26347872

The Sepia latimanus, the broad club cuttlefish, at the Steinhart Aquarium in the California Academy of Sciences are  six months old and are really starting to show the behaviors of adults. Sometimes known as the Giant Cuttlefish, S. latimanus is reported to reach 50cm in length and weigh up to 10kg (though I have never seen one in the wild that size). With a lifespan of 1-2 years and such large size, it makes sense that a hatchling about 1 cm long in February could be almost 18cm long in July. Like all cephalopods, these guys are eating machines, able to completely eat a silverside in under 2 minutes – with no leftovers at all. They are being fed at least 3 times a day with different feeds including live crabs, live bait shrimp, thawed prawns and thawed silversides. With the fast growth, some issues have started to appear including minor ‘butt burn’, damage to the tip of the mantle caused by the animal jetting into the sides quickly (a big animal is a strong animal!) and inking events due to adolescent competition blackening the tank water. To help alleviate these issues, the population has been split into two groups, 2 animals on display and 4 animals in holding. The other adult behaviors are way more exciting.

In the video above (oh, blue lights and video – why do you hate each other) you can see a lot of color pulsing on the skin of the cuttles as they hunt for food. It is thought that this striking pattern and color show somehow helps in hunting, perhaps confusing prey into motionlessness. However, unlike wild adults, the color patterns have not yet reached down the two wide arms that are often stretched out horizontally during hunting – which incidentally help give this cuttle their ‘broadclub’ common name. The patterns also seem to originate at the back of the mantle, while wild adults seem to pulse more on the head and arms (as shown in the video from NOVA’s ‘Kings of Camouflage’ linked below). The other interesting behavior in the video above is the ‘banding-of-the-eyes-darkening-of-two-arm-tips-while-gesticulating-madly’ behavior (rolls off the tongue eh?), which only seems to occur when the animals are hunting silversides, perhaps this is another distraction technique.

As you can tell, I am over the moon with excitement over these behaviors, and even more excited that they are happening with the animals on display. If you are any kind of ceph-head and are in the SF area, I urge you to get down to the academy and take a look as these amazing animals while they are on display.

A video update of some cephalopods at the California Academy of Sciences including: hunting Coconut Octopus, mating Dwarf Cuttlefish, hunting hatchling Flamboyant Cuttlefish and feeding Broadclub cuttlefish.

http://vimeo.com/25738832

Things have been hopping at work with cephs! It is remarkable to work at a place with such diversity. Things are mating, hatching, eating and above all growing. I am amazed that the Sepia latimanus hatched in February this year are now almost 7 inches long. The Amphioctopus marginatus are growing almost visibly day by day. The Metasepia sp hatchlings are almost doing the same. Anyway, a video is worth a thousand words, so here is a bit of a long one featuring the A. marginatus on display moving faster than I thought possible, the Sepia bandensis on display (mating), the Metasepia eating and the S. latimanus eating and being burly!

Coconut Octopus, Amphioctopus marginatus, on display at Steinhart Aquarium

http://vimeo.com/24524860

From TONMO

http://vimeo.com/24524860As far as we can tell, on June 1st the Steinhart Aquarium became the first aquarium to display Amphioctopus marginatus, the Coconut Octopus or Veined Octopus. This small robust octopus has gotten a lot of attention over the past few yeas first as one of the documented octopuses capable of bipedal locomotionhttp://www.sciencemag.org/content/307/5717/1927.full and as an octopus possibly capable of tool usehttp://www.guardian.co.uk/science/pu…/2011/jan/20/1.

The animal on display was collected by Steinhart Biologists in Anilao, Philippines, as part of the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition http://www.calacademy.org/blogs/expedition/?p=800, just a week before going on display.

Needless to say, I am very excited to have the opportunity not only to have seen these animals in the wild, but also to be able to work with them in captivity. So much so that I am posting the above video shot on my iphone. In the video you can see the octopus flashing colors, a bit of a limb that is re growing, hunting and catching a ghost shrimp, and returning to its glass jar den.

CEPHALOPOD BREEDING