HOT SPELL PROMPTS ICY TREAT FOR MERLIN THE OCTOPUS

Keepers at Bristol Aquarium provided their giant octopus with an unusual gift in the shape of frozen alphabet treats.

Staff at the Harbourside attraction used giant letter moulds to spell out ‘BRISTOL’ and then froze a selection of fish and shrimps inside for the awesome cephalopod to enjoy.

The icy treat was prompted by the recent spell of hot weather – although almost as soon as they gave it to Merlin the rain clouds started gathering.

Bristol Aquarium’s David Waines said: “Keepers are always coming up with new ways to keep Merlin mentally and physically stimulated.

Ice-filled treats are always a particular favourite and these were no exception as they disappeared almost as soon as we put them in the water,” he added.

Keepers use everything from Perspex boxes and rubber toys to fishing floats to ensure Merlin is constantly being exposed to new and interesting challenges.

Giant Pacific octopus are the world’s largest species of octopus and are found from Japan to Southern California. The biggest recorded specimen had an arm span of 10 metres (33ft) and weighed 270kgs (600lbs).

Despite the fact they belong to the same family as slugs and snails, octopus can perform highly complex tasks. As well as unscrewing jars, they can open boxes, distinguish between different shapes and colours and complete mazes.

According to Israeli scientists some of the octopus’s intelligence is actually contained within its tentacles. Each of the octopus’ eight arms is controlled by an elaborate nervous system consisting of 50 million neurons.

Giant Pacific octopus also mature incredibly quickly – going from the size of a rice grain at birth to being fully grown within the space of two years.

Issued by Bristol Aquarium. For more information and to arrange interviews and picture opportunities please contact Tina Patel and David Waines on 0117 934 0944 or Dan de Castro on 0117 934 0943.