Angry bored octopus goes wilding

Otto the Octopus, a resident of Sea Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany, is bored because the aquarium's closed for the winter -- so he's making mischief. First he squirted an overhead light until it shorted out, and now he's taken to juggling the hermit crabs.
"Once we saw him juggling the hermit crabs in his tank, another time he threw stones against the glass damaging it. And from time to time he completely re-arranges his tank to make it suit his own taste better - much to the distress of his fellow tank inhabitants."
Otto the octopus wreaks havoc (Thanks, Marilyn!)



  1. If something strange is going on after hours in an aquarium, it’s almost certain to have an octopus behind it. I think this is the third or forth variation on the “octopus does something to surprise his handlers” story I’ve read.

    Still, squirting the light, throwing rocks at the glass…. maybe he’s suicidal?

  2. I don’t suppose the thought crossed anyone’s mind over at the aquarium that Otto isn’t particularly happy being confined and maybe he should be released?

    (Now before anyone gets all ad hominem up in this threzzle, I am not a PETA supporter nor a vegetarian nor a moral sentimentalist of some odious stripe. It just seems clear Otto is bored and wants out and property or not, perhaps his will should be heeded.)

  3. The short-circuit had baffled electricians as well as staff at the Sea Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany, who decided to take shifts sleeping on the floor to find out what caused the mysterious blackouts.

    So much for Teutonic efficiency.

  4. “It just seems clear Otto is bored and wants out and property or not, perhaps his will should be heeded.”

    Why would he want to leave when he has the tank redecorated to suit his tastes? I doubt he misses the natural predators he might face in the wild all that much.

  5. This reminds me of a story I saw on Discovery channel of a marine biologist who studied octopus behavior.

    The biologist had many varieties of aquatic life scattered throughout his lab, including some very rare and expensive fish. The biologist noticed many of these rare fish disappearing overnight.

    How could this happen? All of the predators are segregated from the prey! Turns out the octopus masterminded an aquarium-break on a nightly basis, plopping itself on the floor, scooting across to another tank, and having a midnight snack, as it were. This devious little creature would then return to its own tank as if nothing happened.

  6. If something strange is going on after hours in an aquarium, it’s almost certain to have an octopus behind it. I think this is the third or forth variation on the “octopus does something to surprise his handlers” story I’ve read.

    My girlfriend’s sister used to work at aquarium. Some fish had been mysteriously “disappearing” from their tanks. One morning, they discovered the aquarium’s octopus, dead outside of his tank. Apparently, he had been climbing out of his tank, across the floor to pilfer fish from another tank. But this morning, he failed to make it back in time..

  7. Why is it that when an octopus engages with and modifies his environment to suit himself he’s angry and bored? Seems like pretty natural behavior for most creatures above a certain degree of complexity. Hence, HGTV.

  8. @ #13 – are you telling us those people on HGTV aren’t angry and bored? Wait, so is it just those of us stuck watching them?

  9. If these lived much longer than 2 years, I figure the dominant species on this planet would not be H. sapiens

    Nevertheless, although a meateater, I’m reluctant to eat cephalopods (for the same reason I’m reluctant to eat primates and cetaceans).

    And now for something completely different: Vampire Squids from Hell!!!!!

  10. there’s something to that in that the only animal that ever came close to killing me was an octopus.

  11. Takuan, I now have this image of you walking down the street and being ambushed by an octopus with a flick-knife.

  12. They moved the 2000 watt light out of his range. Did they think of shading the tank or turning it the frick off, and letting him have some respite from the glare? This aquarium sounds like a panopticon prison.

  13. @#22, Thank you. Amazing it took so long for someone to suggest they turn off the lights for a bit. If I were an octopus I might like some darkness.

    And a piano.

  14. I say, give Otto a remote control for the lights and see what happens. Give him a keyboard and see what he blogs.

  15. if only his keepers read Boing Boing they would realise that Otto needs …
    1: a Mr Potato Head
    2: a Rubiks Cube
    3: a Seacoconut dress-up kit

    or, I might suggest a lady octopus.

  16. I absolutely love octopus/octopi/octopuses (and am amused by all the debate over proper pluralization).
    David Gallo gave a fantastic TED presentation about various neat forms of sea life, with quite a bit of video footage of cephalopods doing cool things.

    Its worth watching the whole 6 minutes:

    but if you want to see the part that just really made my jaw drop in total astonishment, go to about 4:20 and watch on…

    Nature, the best special effects.

  17. Oh man. Reason #85,000,000 that octopi are awesome: juggling hermit crabs. I’ve been trying to prove to a friend that they are by far the smartest, funniest animals ever. And now I have proof.

  18. Someone needs a few Environmental Enrichment toys…

    I presume someone has done intelligence studies on octop’s [*]. Of course that’s a multiple-axis measurement, but I really should look up where they fall on the various scales. They seem to do pretty darned well for themselves; curiosity and determination will get you a long way. Given that they’re from an entirely different phylum, this may be as close as we ever get to interacting with a truly alien intelligence.

    [* I’m NOT going to get into the pluralization debate!]

  19. I’d definitely suggest, if not giving him an off switch, giving him more materials suitable for creating a shaded environment for himself.

    This way he gets two benefits: one, control over his own lighting, and two, something entertaining to do.

    Give him some toys to play with, at least while the crowds are away for the winter. Change the toys up so he doesn’t get bored with them (I have to do this for my cats).

    Hell, give him a TV to watch if he was so entertained by watching the patrons… (but put it behind a plexiglass shield so if he doesn’t like it, he doesn’t short it out)

  20. Let’s make a genetically modified one that doesn’t die by the age of three just to see what happens.

  21. So basically my old roommate was really an octopus? Makes sense I guess.

    Why isn’t he bored when the aquarium is open? Is it really just the people coming to see him that he loves so much? Which begs another question, why is he so interested in people? Maybe he’s studying them, trying to learn everything about them so he can one day blend in?

  22. Sea Otters do similar things in captivity (the behaviors related to shellfish simply can’t be turned off). Apparently, three orphaned otters in one of the west coast aquaria used to be master jail-breakers. I remember one of their keepers saying that if it could be unscrewed, pried open or gnawed off, they would do it.

    If the otters and the octopodes ever form an alliance, it’ll mean no more sea food for the rest of us, ever.

  23. Shades of Charlie Sross’s Lobsters; give this feller some processing power, see what he comes up with.

  24. @32. Both octopuses and octopi are correct. Your pedantic office-mate should know that the English language borrows (or sometimes merely pretends to borrow) plenty of words from other languages, but that has never made us beholden to the grammar of those languages.

    I’m just saying, call him a know-it-all and knock over his coffee cup. For some reason, “the guy who studied an ancient language for 9 weeks” brand of pedant is the one the irritates me the most.

  25. Cool. Especially the juggling bit.

    If he electrocutes himself (is that even possible?) while squirting a light bulb, would he be eligible for a Darwin Award?

    Stagyar zil Doggo

  26. I agree with Igpajo – put that Octopus on YOUTUBE! I want to see him juggling hermit crabs. That’s someone I wouldn’t want removed from my party!

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