Watch an octopus disappear into "quicksand" on the sea bottom


The southern sand octopus (Octopus kaurna) whips up some seafloor "quicksand" lined with mucus and burrows into it to rest during the daytime. From New Scientist:

(University of Melbourne researcher Jasper) Montana and his team first caught the octopus in the act of burrowing in 2008 when they were scuba diving at night in Port Philip Bay, south of Melbourne, Australia. When they shone a light on the octopus, the startled animal spread out its arms and repeatedly injected high-powered jets of water into the sediment using its funnel. This caused grains of sand to be temporarily suspended in water, making it like sandy water.

“The sediment became fluid like quicksand,” Montana says. The octopus put its arms into the sand while still pumping out water and eventually dived down into the sediment. The liquefied sand is likely to reduce drag and so allow the animal to burrow more quickly, using less energy, Montana’s team speculates....

They (later) found that the animal used its arms and mantle to push the sand away and form a burrow. It also extended two arms to the surface to create a narrow chimney to breathe through. Finally, it secured the walls of its new home with a layer of mucus that kept the grains of sand together so the entire thing maintained its shape.

"Zoologger: Octopus makes own quicksand to build burrow on seabed" (New Scientist via Laughing Squid)

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Cute octopus flier on post

"Do you want this octopust to have fewer legs?" Spotted in Oakland. (via mikaeladupomp) Read the rest

Octopus limbs have a mind of their own

A couple of years ago, I recorded a talk on octopus neurobiology. One of the freakiest things you'll learn, if you watch it, is that an octopus' "brain" isn't really a centralized thing the way ours is. The processing capacity is distributed throughout the animal's body. At io9 today, Annalee Newitz writes about a new study that backs up that idea, demonstrating that disembodied octopus arms react to threats in ways a severed human hand never could. Read the rest

Resin octopus

Judy Fox's "Octopus" is an awfully lovely piece -- it's repped by LA's Ace Gallery.

Octopus, 2009 Sculpted in terra cotta, cast in poly resin and painted with casein paint Read the rest

Expressive octopus-with-lanterns statue

The expressive insouciance of the tentacles are what really make this wonderful lantern-bearing-octopus sculpture by Scott Musgrove.

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Octopus table

Isaac Krauss's octopus table is a fantastic piece of work -- I want a giant brass octopus for my house!

Then, while taking his first bronze sculpting course, Krauss unearthed the idea and set to work. He admits to having had very little experience working with bronze, but felt that stretching beyond his limits would push him as an artist. The most difficult aspect of this project, according to Krauss, was the detailed suction cups and applying them to the octopuses eight arms. For this, a close friend of his helped him out and also assisted in carrying through with the project till its completion. Overall, it took 1500 hours of work and $5000 to create this marvelous piece of art.

Awe-Inspiring Octopus Table (via Neatorama) Read the rest

Octopus walks on land

Perhaps you've heard the tale of the octopus that broke out of its tank at the aquarium and walked across the room to break into another tank where it proceeded to eat other forms of sea life.

That story is kind of an urban legend. It's supposedly happened at every aquarium in the world, but can't be confirmed. And experts have told me that the hard floors in an aquarium would likely seriously damage the suction pads of any octopus that tried it.

But the basic idea—that an octopus could pop out of the water and move across dry ground&dmdash;is a very real thing. Here, an octopus at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in California hauls itself out of the water, and scoots awkwardly around on land for a little bit (while some apparently Minnesotan tourists gawk), before sliding back into the water. It's not the most graceful sort of travel. But it can be very handy. Octopuses do this in nature to escape predators, and also to find food of their own in tidal pools.

As an added bonus: Scientific American just started an all-octopuses, all-the-time blog called The Octopus Chronicles. Check it out!

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Scientists build robot octopus, one tentacle at a time

Last year, I interviewed Binyamin Hochner of Hebrew University about his work developing new robotics systems based on the neurobiology of octopuses and other cephalopods. That interview ended up being incorporated into a video about cephalopod intelligence that was posted here on BoingBoing.

Long story short: Cephalopods don't have their neurons organized in the same way that we vertebrates do. An octopus has as many neurons as a cat, but instead of relying on a central brain, the octopus' neurons are far more scattered. Some are centralized into what we might think of as a "brain"—in this case, a donut-shaped organ that actually wraps around the octopus' esophagus. But the bulk of the neurons are distributed throughout the octopus' body. When the octopus moves, the centralized and decentralized neurons work together, sharing information and the duties of processing and control*.

Researchers like Hochner think that distributed processing system could make for better robots that can do more thinking on their own. Now, his work is paying off. In the video above, you can see the robotic arm produced by an interdisciplinary, team funded by the European Commission, of which Hochner is a part. The 17-inch arm can grasp objects and is the first step in a larger plan to build an entire robot octopus.

I'll say that again, "Robot octopus." Feel free to squeel with delight.

Video Link

*For the record, this is my guess for why the technically dead squid in that video Xeni posted on Monday still reacted when doused with soy sauce.

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