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Octo-in-training

Photo: copyright Andy Murch

 

By Andy Murch

This was the most energetic and entertaining giant pacific octopus that I’ve encountered, and I’m chalking it up to youthful trial and error. Daytime GPO sightings are usually rather fleeting but this young animal was bouncing all over Race Rocks looking for the perfect spot to blend in. At one point he made a particularly bad choice and landed in front of this field of ivory plumose anemones that even a king of camouflage like the GPO couldn’t hide against. Just after this shot, the octo made a valiant attempt to colour shift from orange to almost white but quickly threw in the towel, inked me and slipped into a crack impossibly small even for his adolescent size.

I’d guess this kid was about five feet (1.5m) across stretched out but some can grow to 15 feet (4.5m) wide and there are unconfirmed reports of GPOs reaching an enormous 30-foot (9m) span from tentacle tip to tentacle tip. With just a few years to transform from microscopic mollusc to the dimensions of a mythical kraken, GPOs have to be able to consume virtually anything that they find underwater or above. In April at Ogden Point Breakwater in Victoria, BC – just a few miles from this underwater photo site – a tourist witnessed a GPO latching onto a sea gull and wrestling it into the depths. Although attacking a bony bag of feathers was probably not worth the calorific effort, it underscores just how opportunistic these animals can be. So, if there really are 15-foot (9m) specimens out there, a cautionary note: next time you’re strolling along the BC shoreline keep an eye on the water!

Photograph taken at Race Rocks off the south coast of Vancouver Island near Victoria, BC, using a Nikon D7000 with Nikkor 17-55mm lens set at 17mm in an Aquatica housing. Exposure f18 at 1/80 second at ISO 640, using twin Sea & Sea 110a strobes.

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