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12 Outrageous Facts About Octopuses

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The octopus is a magnificent and mysterious creature. They’re well known for their eight tentacles, but did you know these other outstanding facts?

1. "OCTOPI" IS ONLY KIND OF THE PLURAL FOR OCTOPUS.

Need a name for your friendly neighborhood group of octopi? Octopi might not be the word you actually want. It came from a time when grammarians tried to regulate English to have similar endings to Latin. Other options include "octopuses" (which is the choice of the AP Stylebook, the guide that dictates grammar rules for most journalists) and "octopodes."

Kory Stamper, a lexicographer at Merriam-Webster, breaks it down below.

2. THEY’RE SUPER SNEAKY.

As we’ve written about previously, scientists think octopuses are colorblind, but that doesn’t stop them from instantly camouflaging themselves when necessary. Matching the colors of the seabed or algae-covered rocks is no issue for them. What’s more, T. mimicus has been known to make itself look like other, much more dangerous creatures by changing shape. Just watch ...

3. THEY LOVE PLAYING WITH TOYS.

We wrote about the time an octopus broke into a library to read some books. They’ve also been known to play with rubber duckies, LEGOs, and even a diver’s camera. They’re often drawn to shiny things or objects they haven't seen before.

4. THEY’RE GREAT HOMEMAKERS.

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Octopuses find homes wherever they can, from bottles to shipwrecks. They’re known to move often in order to follow sources of food, but if they have a more permanent pad, they’ll put shells and other objects in an "octopus garden" outside to decorate.

5. THEY'D HAVE NO PROBLEM TAKING YOU DOWN.

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Usually, a human's interaction with an octopus wouldn't be much worse than getting some water squirted at you (as this guy learned). That being said, some people used to like a challenge, so they went big—octopus wrestling-big. Yes, in the middle of the 20th century, octopus wrestling was a very real thing. There was even a World Octopus Wrestling Championship. But Washington State quashed the games in 1976 with a law that made it illegal to “harass” an octopus. Because of that, you probably shouldn’t expect the sport to make a comeback.

6. THEY GET SPECIAL TREATMENT.

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In the eyes of the law, anyway. In 1986, the United Kingdom passed ASPA—or the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act—which severely restricted which animals could be used for research. The law included protections for “any living vertebrate other than man.” In 1993, they passed an amendment that would extend the law’s protections to “any invertebrate of the species Octopus vulgaris from the stage of its development when it becomes capable of independent feeding.” Many people cite their intelligence as evidence that octopuses are worthy of the exception.

7. THEY EAT OTHER OCTOPUSES WITH SHOCKING REGULARITY.

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If they’re hungry enough, an octopus will eat a younger member of its species. (A team of researchers even caught it on video for the first time last year.) Scientists have also observed a female octopus eating her mate after they did the deed.

In order to avoid being killed after copulation, male octopuses have special adaptations to help them. These include mating at arm’s length, special disguises, and even occasionally sacrificing a limb.

8. BUT SOMETIMES THEY DON’T KNOW WHEN TO STOP.

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What is worrying to some scientists is that the cannibalism isn’t always limited to other octopuses. Some octopuses have started eating their own limbs and then dying, which scientists originally chalked up to autotomy, a behavior in which an animal will break off a limb for self-protection. The animals would die soon after doing this, and others that had been near it would start doing the same thing.

Stress or boredom both could have caused the problem, but eliminating sources of either didn’t make anything better. Some now believe it could be a disease attacking the nervous system that’s causing this strange behavior.

9. SOME SCIENTISTS BELIEVE THEY HAVE PERSONALITIES.

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Through testing, scientists have found that individual octopuses respond differently to situations. This implies that, like humans, each octopus possesses individual characteristics.

10. EARLY RELATIVES MAY HAVE BEEN AROUND ALMOST 300 MILLION YEARS AGO.

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Now resting at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Pohlsepia is the octopus’ oldest ancestor. Like an octopus, it lacks a shell and has eight arms—the first creature to do so. It was found in the Pennsylvanian Francis Creek Shale of Illinois' Carbondale Formation.

11. THEY HAVE SPARKED MANY SEA MONSTER LEGENDS.

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The octopus probably sparked ideas of the Kraken, the akkorokamui, and more. When a ship was lost at sea, many people just accepted that the Kraken probably got a hold of it and that they likely wouldn’t see their loved ones again.

We first started drawing the Kraken as gigantic octopuses sometime around the 18th century (it started its life a little more crab-like) and the imagery has stuck—even though every example of the Kraken has now been debunked. The St. Augustine Monster, a creature that many thought could have been an unknown species of huge octopus we hadn’t yet discovered, later turned out to be parts of a definitely-discovered whale.

12. OCTOPUSES DON'T STICK TO THEMSELVES BECAUSE THEY CAN'T.

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Each one of an octopus' tentacles operates completely independently of the body as a whole, yet they don't get tied up in knots. How? It's been discovered that octopus tentacles can stick to everything except octopus skin, meaning that the creature is safe from itself.

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Animals
The Simple Way to Protect Your Dog From Dangerous Rock Salt
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Winter can be a tough time for dogs. The cold weather usually means there are fewer opportunities for walks and more embarrassing accessories for them to wear. But the biggest threat to canines this time of year is one pet owners may not notice: the dangerous rock salt coating the streets and sidewalks. If you live someplace where this is a problem, here are the steps you need to take to keep your pooch safe until the weather warms up, according to Life Hacker.

Rock salt poses two major hazards to pets: damage to their feet and poisoning from ingestion. The first is the one most pet owners are aware of. Not only do large grains of salt hurt when they get stuck in a dog’s paws, but they can also lead to frostbite and chemical burns due to the de-icing process at work. The easiest way to prevent this is by covering your dog’s paws before taking them outside. Dog booties get the job done, as do protective balms and waxes that can be applied directly to their pads.

The second danger is a little harder to anticipate. The only way you can stop your dog from eating rock salt from the ground is to keep a close eye on them. Does your dog seem a little too interested in a puddle or a mound of snow? Encourage them to move on before they have a chance to take a lick.

If, for some reason, you forget to follow the steps above and your pet has a bad encounter with some winter salt, don’t panic. For salty feet, soak your dog's paws in warm water once you get inside to wash away any remaining grit. If your dog exhibits symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and disorientation and you suspect they’ve ingested rock salt, contact your vet right away.

Even with the proper protection, winter can still create an unsafe environment for dogs. Check out this handy chart to determine when it’s too cold to take them for a walk.

[h/t Life Hacker]

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© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
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Animals
Boston's Museum of Fine Arts Hires Puppy to Sniff Out Art-Munching Bugs
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Some dogs are qualified to work at hospitals, fire departments, and airports, but one place you don’t normally see a pooch is in the halls of a fine art museum. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is changing that: As The Boston Globe reports, a young Weimaraner named Riley is the institution’s newest volunteer.

Even without a background in art restoration, Riley will be essential in maintaining the quality of the museum's masterpieces. His job is to sniff out the wood- and canvas-munching pests lurking in the museum’s collection. During the next few months, Riley will be trained to identify the scents of bugs that pose the biggest threat to the museum’s paintings and other artifacts. (Moths, termites, and beetles are some of the worst offenders.)

Some infestations can be spotted with the naked eye, but when that's impossible, the museum staff will rely on Riley to draw attention to the problem after inspecting an object. From there, staff members can examine the piece more closely and pinpoint the source before it spreads.

Riley is just one additional resource for the MFA’s existing pest control program. As far as the museum knows, it's rare for institutions facing similar problems to hire canine help. If the experiment is successful, bug-sniffing dogs may become a common sight in art museums around the world.

[h/t The Boston Globe]

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