Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Weekly MUSE: Octopus

The Giant Pacific Octopus
Photo by: Joe Parks
I was at an international supermarket the other day and found octopus meat for sale. I was instantly reminded of going fishing in Seattle’s Puget Sound!

Washington State Ferries crossing Puget Sound
Photo by: Elaphurus

I love to go fishing, but I was used to fishing in the lakes and rivers of Indiana – not the salt waters of Puget Sound. I figured it couldn't be that much different though, so I took a fishing pole, some hooks and some worms down to the pier. I baited my hook and tossed the line in the water.

I waited and waited. Nothing. Wasn’t I supposed to catch a flounder or something?

I waited some more. Nothing. In Indiana I would have had at least a nibble by now.

And just as my mind began to drift away like the Washington State Ferry hauling cars across the sound, my pole lurched forward, and my line tightened.

I tugged and reeled and tugged some more. Whatever was on the end of my line was fighting hard to stay in the water.

When the beast finally surfaced, I could not believe my eyes. I was expecting a fish with fins and gills, not an OCTOPUS with eight arms! Toto, I believe we are not in Indiana anymore.

Not only had I caught an OCTOPUS, but I also found my MUSE! And now, I would like to share this MUSE with you! Here is what I learned about OCTOPI…

The octopus I had caught was a young Giant Pacific Octopus. This species is native to the Puget Sound and are the largest Octopi in the world. They grow up to 33 pounds with an arm span of up to 14 feet.

Octopi are the smartest invertebrates known to man. They have the intelligence of a house cat, and they are known for using problem solving skills. In captivity, octopi have learned how to open jars. Take a look at this video and see for yourself!

Octopi have superior defense skills. They can squeeze their soft bodies through seemingly impossible cracks. They can change their skin color to match their environment, and they can shoot a cloud of dark ink to confuse a predator. WOW!

The smaller an octopus species is, the more poisonous it is (usually). The most poisonous octopus is the Blue Ringed Octopus that lives off the coast of Australia. This little guy has enough poison to kill a human being, and they only get four inches long. Here is video about the Blue Ringed Octopus.

Octopi usually eat mollusks and crustaceans, but they have been known to eat each other, too. The Giant Pacific Octopus will sometimes snag a shark for lunch. Now, that’s something to write home about. Take a LOOK!

And please do not call an octopus’ arms, legs. Spiders have eight legs! Octopi have eight arms! And these arms are lined with two rows of suction cups each. They are used for holding onto things and tasting things. Yes, I said tasting.

By the way - Octopi, Octopodes, and Octopuses are all acceptable ways of describing more than one octopus.

With this new knowledge what kind of story could you write? Maybe these “WHAT IF” questions will help you get started.

WHAT IF a giant octopus lived under the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, in Tacoma WA? Oops, this legend already exists, but we could embellish it (wink).   

WHAT IF your character woke up one morning and his/her arms and legs had turned into those of an octopus?

WHAT IF your character built a robotic octopus submarine? What would he/she go hunting for underwater?

The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own WHAT IF questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.

So, grab a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.

With Imagination,
Prof. Watermelon

P.S. The word of the week is “invertebrate”. Here is the definition: of or pertaining to creatures without a backbone.

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