Just like Ringo belted out, sometimes we’d all like to be under the sea in an octopus’ garden. Well, we can’t send you on an underwater scuba adventure but we do have eight ways you can learn to be more like our beloved 8-legged pals. Read on to arm yourself.
photo: damn_unique via flickr
Learn: Since octopuses are invertebrates, meaning they have no spine or protective outer shell, they can be vulnerable to predators. While their camouflage and mimicry skills act as defenses, when cornered an octopus’ best tactic is distraction. They squirt black or dark colored ink into the water, temporarily blinding their opponent while they make a quick getaway.
Do: If you have black or brown food coloring, that is ideal (hint: mix all the colors and you’ll get black!) but you can really do this with any color. It’s simple and only takes a couple of minutes: Get a clear glass or jar and fill with water. Add a drop or two of the food coloring to the water and watch how it colors the water. This should happen relatively slowly. Now try it again with new water/jar but this time shake or stir the ink (to simulate the propulsion of the octopus when they zip away). Watch how quickly the water turns color.
photo: zoneku1 via youtube
2. Mobile Homes
Learn: Did you know that certain octopuses have mobile homes? Veined octopuses specifically have been seen using coconut shells and sea shells as hide outs and ways to make a house. But what’s even more interesting is that they have been witnessed stacking up shells and taking them with them across the sea floor to use again. Other octopuses have been known to pull a rock “door” across their sea cave in order to protect themselves. Click the video above to see a coconut octopus “walk” across the sea floor with its shells.
>Do: Make a fort out of a few throw pillows and a baby blanket. Now stack these items up and “jog” into the next room to create a new hiding space. Did you make it without dropping one?
photo: Ray Sadler via flickr
Learn: The clever octopus is able to open jars and containers to get their snacks: live crabs are usually a big hit. In fact, one New Zealand octo was able to open his jar in less than a minute (the fastest anyone has observed).
Do: Place a little snack inside a jar, inside a jar, inside a box. Time the kiddos to see how long it takes for them to get the snack out.
photo: Eric Bartholomew via flickr
4. Make a Splash
Learn: Octopuses like to play. Scientists have observed octopuses in aquariums playing with bottles, jars and other objects. In her book, Octopus!, Katherine Harmon Courage talks about an octopus that played with a plastic bottle in a jet of water.
Do: This one’s easy! Plop the kiddos in a bath with some toys. If you want to reenact the plastic water bottle scene, let the kiddos play in the water stream as the tub is filling up with a small empty bottle.
photo: Elias Levy via flickr
5. Camouflage Cephalopods
Learn: Octopuses are masters of camouflage, being able to blend into their surroundings flawlessly. They can be as bright as a coral reef or as pale as sand. Remarkably, this can all take place in less than one second.
Do: No, we’re not going to suggest full body paint (but you could if you wanted to do an octobath later…wait. No.) but a game of hide and seek is in order. Encourage the kiddos to think about how they might “blend” into their surroundings. You can also do an object version of hide and seek: choose a yellow item and nestle it among a bowl of lemons, for example. Give clues as necessary.
photo: Phillip Dean via flickr
6. Are You Mocking Me?
Learn: Not only are they fast at blending into their surroundings, some octopus species are masters of disguise. They can mimic other sea creatures in order to fool would-be predators.
Do: Make funny faces and strike silly poses while your sweeties mimic you. Then reverse and see if you can own that perfect “Is that cauliflower?” face.
photo: Rob Briscoe via flickr
7. Strike a Pose!
Learn: One of the coolest stories about these eight-legged creatures is the amazing New Zealand octopus who learned to take photos. Rambo the Octopus was trained by a series of buzzing noises and treats to learn to use a camera! She learned in just a few days (faster than most dogs!). Read more about Rambo here.
Do: Give your kiddos a camera or your phone and let them take a series of photos that represent their world.
photo: Yosuke Shimizu via flickr
8. Help Out
Learn: Octopus are not currently on the endangered species list but overfishing, pollution and destruction of their oceanic habitats threatens the many kinds of octopus around the world.
Do: There are lots of ways to help save the oceans and keep them clean. Organize or attend a beach clean up, pay attention to the packaging on products you buy (remember, just because you don’t live near the ocean doesn’t mean your garbage might not end up there), choose sustainable seafood and avoid purchasing products that impact habitat. Check out Oceana.org to get more ideas.
What are your favorite ways to honor the noble octopus? Tell us about it in a comment below!