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Of all the creatures with whom we share this big, beautiful planet, octopuses have to be some of the absolute coolest.

OK, now before anyone gets all fired up to send me an email about “octopi” versus “octopuses,” let me just say that multiple sources all agree: both ways are correct. As is, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “octopodes” – but that’s just silly.

The first cool thing about them is that, in answer to the question posed by Ogden Nash in his poem “The Octopus,” some of those things are arms, and some “is legs.”

Although they look the same to us, six of their eight appendages (which are not tentacles by the way) function more like arms, two as legs. What’s more, it’s been documented that a “bored” octopus will eat its own arm. Which it can then regrow. What? Yes. The arms also play a key, and bizarre, role in octopus reproduction – but this is a family paper, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Next on the “amaze-o-meter” of octopus facts is their unreal ability to camouflage themselves. Unlike most species who maintain a static appearance, using their basic coloring or overall shape to either blend in with their surroundings or mimic a predator or an element they are not, the octopuses take it up a notch.

Octopuses are able to change their color, their pattern and even their shape to meet whatever need presents itself. I don’t just mean a subtle shift, either. They are the ultimate masters of disguise. If you want to see for yourself, there is a great National Geographic video out there on YouTube that showcases a series of rapid changes of looks. Well worth watching.


Super intelligent, octopuses are also renowned for their ability to problem-solve. Scientists have put these amazing animals through a series of obstacle courses, and they just continue to amaze.

Their abilities to unscrew jars and unlock locks is well, and hysterically, documented.

Several of these cephalopods have gained fame for their antics such as Inky, the octopus who escaped from a New Zealand aquarium, and my own personal favorite, Otto, an octopus in a German aquarium who, presumably preferring the dark, kept squirting out jets of water to short circuit the lights. That’s just funny.

However, my fangirl musings on these creatures aside, I bring them up right now because scientists have just discovered four new species of deep-sea octopuses. These new species of octopuses are living in places that are unexpected, such as on the rims of deep-sea heat vents, and behaving in ways that are completely new to the humans watching them.

It is all rather breathtaking.

The new species also have different characteristics and adaptations, resulting in my favorite news quote of the year where they are referred to as “chonky.” A chonky octopus. Adorable.


All of this is exciting and amazing, but it gets better because Dr. Beth Orcutt of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences – right here in Maine, in East Boothbay – led the research that led to their discovery.

I am so delighted for her, and so proud for our state that we are a part of this work.

This to me is a shining example of us at our absolute best. We have taken who we are, a coastal state with a deep historical relationship with marine science, and applied it to conversations that crisscross the globe with other curious, interested and questioning people to arrive at new knowledge that is just fundamentally fascinating.

Well, I know. I am gushing. But there it is. This research inspires it. I highly recommend some quick online searches for images of these newly discovered species, and then take a moment just to be grateful we are alive in a world that contains such strange and beautiful creatures, and the promise of still more mysteries waiting to be revealed.

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