The largest species of octopus found in our seas, the average Giant Pacific Octopus measures about 16 feet in length! These incredible deep-sea creatures can be found throughout the North Pacific, from California to Japan, and have captured the imagination of marine biologists all around the world for their striking appearance, incredible intelligence and vivid personalities.
With the ability to change their colour and interact with people, Giant Pacific Octopuses are certainly a sight to behold. And, luckily, you don’t have to travel half the world to the shores of North America or Japan to catch a glimpse of these amazing creatures. Gloria the Giant Pacific Octopus has called Bristol Aquarium ‘home’ for the last two years, and is always one of the highlights for our guests.
So, to give you a little background to Gloria and her species, we’re taking a look at what makes them so special – from their anatomy to their unique abilities and skills.
There is something distinctly otherworldly about the octopus family – eight arms, a large head and a small beak, they’re one of the most unusual-looking creatures anywhere on this planet. And, it’s not just the outward appearance which is unusual – on the inside, they’ve got nine brains, three hearts and blue blood!
Here, we have a look at the amazing features of the Giant Pacific Octopus, and explain what each part does.
Where does the Giant Pacific Octopus live?
As you might be able to gather from the name, the Giant Pacific Octopus is native to the Pacific ocean – specifically the North Pacific. It can be found along the coast of the US and Canada, on the shores of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and British Columbia. Stretching across the ocean, it can also be found close to the coasts of Russia, Japan and Korea.
The creatures can plunge amazing depths, and are just as happy close to the surface as they are thousands of feet towards the ocean’s floor. They are better suited to colder waters, so it is unlikely you’ll discover one swimming through tropical seas.
How big is the Giant Pacific Octopus?
If the name gave away the answer to the last question, it makes this one even more obvious – the Giant Pacific Octopus is giant! The largest octopus species ever discovered, the creature is truly royalty of the sea. The average Giant Pacific Octopus reaches roughly 16ft in length and 110lbs in weight – that’s a bit longer than a Ford Focus and roughly the weight of a Great Dane.
But if you think that’s big – the largest Giant Pacific Octopus ever discovered measured in at an amazing 30ft and 600lbs! That’s roughly the length of five people standing on each other’s shoulders!
What does the Giant Pacific Octopus eat?
With a huge size comes a huge appetite, Giant Pacific Octopuses can gain 2% of their body weight every single day – gorging on a seafood platter. They’re not that picky either when it comes to feeding time. Although crabs are perhaps their meal of choice, they’re happy dining on clams, squid, fish and even other species of octopus. Their rocky dens are often given away by the piles of discarded shells of their prey that stack up outside their front doors.
To feed this huge appetite, the Giant Pacific Octopus comes out hunting at night. They’ll grab hold of their prey using their suckers and attack by paralysing with their toxic saliva or simply breaking them apart. Gruesome, but effective.
Fortunately for the ravenous Giant Pacific Octopus, they’re extremely efficient when it comes to converting food to body mass. All the nutritional value of their diet is converted into energy and muscle – keeping them alert, alive and strong.
Is the Giant Pacific Octopus Venomous?
Yes! But, not poisonous. So, this means that the Giant Pacific Octopus can inject its venom into its prey (it does so using its sharp beak), but it won’t poison you if you decide to have it for your tea.
It’s a relatively recent discovery, but scientists now understand that all octopuses are venomous. Some species, such as the Blue Ringed Octopus, are renowned for their dangerous bites which can kill an adult human, but the Giant Pacific Octopus is a little more mild-mannered than that.
Despite their massive size, Giant Pacific Octopuses are very passive, and wouldn’t go out of their way to attack or pursue a human.
How long do Giant Pacific Octopuses live?
Both male and female Giant Pacific Octopuses live to about four years old – and they naturally pass after breeding. The females stop eating after laying their eggs, dedicating the remainder of their life to protecting and caring for their unborn offspring. By the time the eggs hatch and the baby octopuses are ready to make their own way in the water, their mother’s lifecycle has come to an end, and will typically die.
Although this seems incredibly sad to us, it’s just an octopus’ normal lifecycle – helping to maintain marine balance and ensuring there are new generations of Giant Pacific Octopuses year after year.