Octopus, Octopi, Octopod, Octopuses


Announcer: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from HowStuffWorks.com.

Josh Clark: Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant is seated across from me and that would make this Stuff You Should Know. Yes.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: How you doing?

Chuck Bryant: I'm feeling a little rough, my friend.

Josh Clark: Are you?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I'm all right.

Josh Clark: You look tab white.

Chuck Bryant: You know, Timmy, my hazardous waste buddy? He turned 40 yesterday.

Josh Clark: Oh, really?

Chuck Bryant: So, we went out, and had a nice dinner, and then, you know, went out afterward.

Josh Clark: Italian?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Nice.

Chuck Bryant: Good Italian.

Josh Clark: Nice. Can you -?

Chuck Bryant: And we created a little hazardous waste of our own.

Josh Clark: Gross. That is gross, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: It is, isn't it?

Josh Clark: Yeah, wow.

Chuck Bryant: I'm sorry.

Josh Clark: Well, I'm glad you made it in this week.

Chuck Bryant: I'm here, man. I'm ready.

Josh Clark: You're sitting upright, as I said, and seated across from me.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: So, I'm gonna tell you a story, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: Let's hear it.

Josh Clark: Please, try not to fall asleep, okay? There is an octopus that you probably have never heard of because he got almost no press coverage whatsoever, but his name is Paul.

Chuck Bryant: I've heard of him.

Josh Clark: You have?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, the World Cup octopus?

Josh Clark: Okay, well, I forget you do lots of research. Most people haven't heard of this octopus, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, right.

Josh Clark: His name is Paul and he lives in the Sea Life Center in Germany at a German town that I am not familiar with.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And he had a tendency, believe it or not, to pick the winner of the eight final World Cup matches in 2010.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, didn't he, like, pick - whatever flag he picked up or something?

Josh Clark: No, it was -

Chuck Bryant: - No?

Josh Clark: They would present him with two boxes with a mussel in each box -

Chuck Bryant: - Oh, that's right, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Josh Clark: - and then on one box it would have, like, who was playing who and he hate the mussel out of the right box every single time.

Chuck Bryant: In my mind's eye, he waved a little flag.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: I just totally created that.

Josh Clark: Or he sucked it up in his beak.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Because octopi have beaks.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark: And I'm going to say octopi, I think, probably most of this podcast, but -

Chuck Bryant: - I'm gonna go with octopuses.

Josh Clark: Octopuses is way to go. You could also say octopods. There are at least three plural forms of octopus.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: So, you could say cactuses, I guess, cactopods maybe.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: I don't think the -pods would transfer over because octopi are cephalopods, right, which means head-foot.

Chuck Bryant: It means head-foot. Literally, it means head-footed, and that means when you look at an octopus and all you see is a head and arms, and that's why. That's where they get that name.

Josh Clark: Right, and it turns out that the area of its eyes are not its head, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: As far as I understand.

Chuck Bryant: What's that?

Josh Clark: That big part that you would think is its head is its mantle.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, okay.

Josh Clark: Were getting ahead of ourselves.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Josh Clark: So, you wanna classify this thing a little better?

Chuck Bryant: Yes, we're gonna classify it as the phylum mollusca with snails, and slugs, and clams, and things like that in the class of Cephalopoda, which along with their buddies the squid, and like, nautilus, and things like that. But they don't have, like, an outer shell like a lot of mollusks do.

Josh Clark: No, or an inner shell, which apparently squid have as well.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and we'll get to that though, and why.

Josh Clark: But what they lack in - yeah, what they lack in -

Chuck Bryant: - Shellness?

Josh Clark: - yeah, they make up for in spunk and pluckiness because they are probably the most interesting mollusks of all.

Chuck Bryant: Dude, octopuses are extremely fascinating.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: And that's why I picked them. We don't do like, "And this one is cats." I mean, I love cats, but -

Josh Clark: - Cats are not fascinating.

Chuck Bryant: Cat lovers are gonna hate you. But octopuses are definitely fascinating - endlessly to me, at least. Since you mentioned the mantle, I guess we should talk about that.

Josh Clark: Well, yeah, if you look at an octopus you see the eyes, and then right behind the eyes it looks like its head. No, the eyes are actually attached to the head and what's behind it is called the mantle.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And the mantle is where all of its internal organs are stuffed into, right?

Chuck Bryant: Everything is in that bulbous sac.

Josh Clark: The anus, the gonad.

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: The posterior salivary gland.

Chuck Bryant: Jerry just giggled when you said anus and gonad.

Josh Clark: She always does.

Chuck Bryant: Good, Lord.

Josh Clark: Sometimes I'll just walk past her in the hall and just be like, "Anus. Gonad." And she'll just start tittering.

Chuck Bryant: So everything is up in there, right?

Josh Clark: Yeah, digestive gland.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: The anus, the gonad.

Chuck Bryant: Right. She's still laughing.

Josh Clark: She did it again.

Chuck Bryant: And the mantle is, like, an extremely strong muscle and part of the reason for that is to protect all those organs, obviously.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: And it also helps with respiration.

Josh Clark: And there's also a funnel -

Chuck Bryant: - This is awesome, too.

Josh Clark: - that we will get to later.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: It's gonna come up here or there.

Chuck Bryant: - Like a siphon.

Josh Clark: So, keep an eye out for funnel. If this were Pee Wee's Playhouse, that would be the secret word of the day.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Well, let's just make it that.

Josh Clark: Okay.

Chuck Bryant: And also they call that a siphon, and like you said, we'll explain what that doe s, but we should talk about - we should just go ahead and lead off, I think, with the most fascinating of an octopus to me is the camouflaging abilities.

Josh Clark: Yeah, I was gonna say that its blood was blue.

Chuck Bryant: Well, you know what? Go ahead and say that one. That's good. That's pretty cool.

Josh Clark: Do you want me to?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, blue blood.

Josh Clark: All right, well, your blood is red, as is mine.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: As is all of our listeners'.

Chuck Bryant: Because we're American.

Josh Clark: That's right and we're not wealthy, but octopi apparently are because they have blue blood.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And the reason our blood is red is because we have an iron containing protein called hemoglobin that binds oxygen together in our blood stream for more efficient delivery, right?

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Octopi have blue blood because they have a protein in their blood called hemocyanin, and cyan is another name for blue.

Chuck Bryant: There you go.

Josh Clark: And their blood is blue because hemocyanin is copper-based, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: It's a copper-based protein.

Chuck Bryant: And I guess that makes the diff -

Josh Clark: - It does.

Chuck Bryant: - in the color.

Josh Clark: It makes all the diff.

Chuck Bryant: But that's really interesting because you pointed out something that has to do with one of their most fascinating features. Because they have low oxygen levels, they have three hearts.

Josh Clark: Yes, two -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, two pump blood to the gills, right?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: And then one handles the rest of the body.

Josh Clark: That's right.

Chuck Bryant: That's so awesome.

Josh Clark: It is.

Chuck Bryant: Nature finds a way.

Josh Clark: Always.

Chuck Bryant: To, like, you know -?

Josh Clark: It's like, "I guess we'll put another heart in."

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, "600 million years, we're gonna give you three hearts." So that is awesome, but back to what we were saying, which I think is the most -

Josh Clark: - It's not as awesome as yours.

Chuck Bryant: - awesome. The color changing - well, it's not mine, but - the color-changing, camouflaging ability of the octopus. If you've never seen it, go to YouTube and type in octopus color change. Dude, it's unbelievable. There's one, it's like, 15 seconds long where the beginning of the shot you literally are going, like, "All right, where is the octopus?"

Josh Clark: Wow.

Chuck Bryant: And then it's part of this reef. It shoots off, changes color in, like, under a second, which it can do, and then attaches to another reef and boom. It's that color and looks exactly like that reef.

Josh Clark: Wow.

Chuck Bryant: It's mind-blowing.

Josh Clark: Yeah, and we have no idea how it knows what color to change to, right?

Chuck Bryant: No, we don't know how it knows, but we know how it does.

Josh Clark: Right, exactly. It's through chromatophores, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's the secret.

Josh Clark: Okay, so, chromatophores are little cells that have, like, three pigment sacs in each.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: So, very tiny pigment sacs that depending on the muscles surrounding the cell, whatever color needs to be featured is expanded or contracted.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: So, the other two will be hidden while one is expanded, and that's a cell, as I said, which means it's very, very tiny. And the octopus' skin is covered.

Chuck Bryant: Tens of thousands of them.

Josh Clark: Right, and each one is controlled by a different nerve, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and the way they put it in the article to understand how that works is pretty good, I think. Jennifer Horton did a great job. I t's like if you put a - if you color as section of rubber band, and then you stretch it out, in an instant, it's gonna look completely different color-wise. Then, it contracts and it's gonna be a very deep color. So, that's what it's doing.

Josh Clark: It spreads over a larger surface area, too.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: But since each chromatophore is controlled by its own nerve -

Chuck Bryant: - Its own nervous system, right?

Josh Clark: No, the nervous system controls each one independently.

Chuck Bryant: Okay, got you.

Josh Clark: So, it's like the nervous system is going, "Okay, you're gonna end in this chromatophore."

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: Right? And tens of thousands of them! So, you have all these mind-boggling different combinations. So, the color change can be very - it's not just like, "Okay, I'm going to be blue now."

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: It's like, "I'm going to be speckled," like this coral reef that you were just talking about.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, "I'm gonna look exactly like whatever I'm next to."

Josh Clark: Or a sandy bottom. And it also doesn't hurt that they have - oh, what are they called - the little mirror-like reflective cells?

Chuck Bryant: Iridophores.

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they mirror the surrounding environment, so that helps. Then, for the texture, they have projections called papillae on their skin and they can actually change textures to blend in as well, which is - the videos on YouTube, dude. It's insane. It doesn't look like nature should be able to do what these things do -

Josh Clark: - Right.

Chuck Bryant: - in a second.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: It's really awesome.

Josh Clark: At least one researcher said that chameleons' camouflage is humdrum by comparison.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark: Have you seen though that one chameleon on YouTube with the different colored sunglasses?

Chuck Bryant: Is that real?

Josh Clark: I think it is.

Chuck Bryant: I got the impression that that was a -

Josh Clark: - Photoshopped or something?

Chuck Bryant: Something. I didn't know that they could change that quickly, but they still got nothing on these octopuses.

Josh Clark: Okay. So, even if it were Photoshopped, they still aren't as good as an octopus.

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: Okay.

Chuck Bryant: Not by a long stretch.

Josh Clark: I gotta check those out.

Chuck Bryant: It's awesome.

Josh Clark: So, Chuck, one of the - well, the main reason why they can change color is not so they can be on YouTube.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: It's so they can -

Chuck Bryant: - It's a perk.

Josh Clark: - evade predators, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and hunt better, and hide for prey, and stuff like that.

Josh Clark: - Sure, but I guess one of the characteristics they're most famous for is - for evading predators is their ink, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Octopus can blow a bunch of ink in your face.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and you mentioned the siphon funnel earlier. They use that in conjunction with the ink sacs. So, they'll spit out some ink, which itself would be just like a very concentrated ink blob.

Josh Clark: Or yeah, it could be like little globules, too.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they'll do that sometimes. I think - why do they do that - to -?

Josh Clark: As decoys.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, decoy, but if they wanna, like, evade something, if they're in major threat mode, they'll squirt out some of the ink and then shoot out a big puff of water from their funnel that they're holding. All of a sudden, that creates the big, like, James Bond oil slick.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Or actually it would be more like a cloud that you can't see.

Josh Clark: The Deepwater Horizon oil slick.

Chuck Bryant: Deepwater Horizon.

Josh Clark: It was all octopuses.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, was it? The ink though, also contains tyrosinase and that impairs taste and smell so that not only if you're a predator - like, you're a shark let's say not only - can you not see - remember the things in the nose of the shark?

Josh Clark: Sure.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that'll affect that, and they'll just get all wacky, and they won't know what to do.

Josh Clark: They start swimming around in circles and smoking cigarettes frantically.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, exactly.

Josh Clark: They get a little upset with that. So, especially with the kinda nervous system that octopuses have to have for each chromatophore to be controlled by its own nerve ending, to be able to release ink - that kinda stuff - there's processes that an octopus that goes through. It shows that they do have a big central nervous system.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark: But they also have, like, a pretty decent-sized brain as well, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and you know, before we move on from the disguising thing, the brown octopus - we should point out - can also contort its shape to look like other things.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: And they think that it chooses what to look like depending on what's going on. Like, I think the example in the article was -

Josh Clark: Damselfish?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, if confronted by a Damselfish, they'll all of a sudden be like, "Form of sea snake," because Damselfish is afraid of the sea snake.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: And the octopus will look like a sea snake. It's like - it's crazy.

Josh Clark: Yeah. Have you seen this sea snake video?

Chuck Bryant: No.

Josh Clark: No? Did you watch any Whitesnake videos today?

Chuck Bryant: No. I love Whitesnake though.

Josh Clark: So, an octopus' brain is proportionately speaking, in some cases, as big as a mammal's.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Or a bird's.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Bird's don't have the smallest brains.

Chuck Bryant: Well, and it's definitely the most evolved of the cephalopods, for sure.

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: Smartest of the lot from what we can tell.

Josh Clark: It is, and again, the nerve endings that we were talking about - the central nervous system. I keep wanting to say nerve endings. The central nervous system is separate from the brain, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's what they've learned through - studies show that they, like, what may happen is they operate independently. So, the brain will, like, send the order out to do something, and then just kinda take it off the list, and then each arm has it's own nervous system, and it will decide how to accomplish that task.

Josh Clark: Right. Apparently, three-fifths of the nerves in the octopus' body is in its arms - in its tentacles.

Chuck Bryant: And there's eight, independent nervous systems because of the octopod's -

Josh Clark: - And Chuck, tell them how they figured out that arms have their own central nervous system. I just thought this was mean.

Chuck Bryant: It sounds very mean. What they did was they severed the nerves in the arms from the other nerves in the bodies and brain, and then they tickled it. Then they found out with some delight, I would imagine, that, "Look, they're still ticklish."

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Even though their brain doesn't know this is going on, so that's how they proved it.

Josh Clark: And these researchers were pretty, I guess, a little intrepid because the arms are very powerful.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark: It's almost all muscle.

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: And they can - since they don't have any bone in them, and there's tons of muscle and nerve endings in them, they can do just about anything, including go semi-rigid, and bend at a spot like we can bend our arms -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, like it's got a joint.

Josh Clark: - like, at our elbow, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Crazy.

Josh Clark: It is, very crazy.

Chuck Bryant: They were talking about, in here, wrestling sharks and if you want to also delight yourself, go to YouTube and type in "shark battles octopus". And this octopus is, like, camouflaged and this shark swims by - like a decent-sized shark - and all of a sudden, this octopus just, like, leaps and wraps this thing up, and the shark cannot get free. You see this, like, massive strong shark, like, wrestling and the octopus will not let it free.

Josh Clark: See, now, octopuses have a feature that we're gonna get to in a minute that I find as unsettling as anything.

Chuck Bryant: Which one?

Josh Clark: The beak.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah.

Josh Clark: But first, let's talk about the eyes while we're on, like, the basic physiology of it, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they're kinda like our eyes, right?

Josh Clark: They're actually better than our eyes. They have eight layers of films that make up, like, their cornea I guess or what would be our cornea. And they're huge, too, because they need to capture more light because it's dark down there.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: But actually camera manufacturers figured out that they could basically replicate an octopus' eye - cornea - for camera lenses and that's actually led -

Chuck Bryant: - No way.

Josh Clark: - to a huge decrease in the cost of cameras.

Chuck Bryant: Really?

Josh Clark: Yeah, because before you had to have eight different lenses because lenses blurred at the edge, right?

Chuck Bryant: Oh, okay, sure.

Josh Clark: So, you had to have eight different lenses to kinda work out that blur.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: But that's pretty big. That's a big camera, and they figured out after replicating octopuses' eyes that they could do it for a lot cheaper.

Chuck Bryant: So, "Bye-bye, octolens."

Josh Clark: No, "Hello, octolens."

Chuck Bryant: They still use eight? They just -

Josh Clark: Well, no, what it's now is an octopus-eye lens. So -

Chuck Bryant: - Right, just with eight lenses.

Josh Clark: - it's an octolens.

Chuck Bryant: So it's, "Goodbye, octolens. Hello, octolens."

Josh Clark: Right, exactly.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, the other thing, too, Josh, I found remarkable is you always see octopuses kinda like monkeying their way along the bottom very slowly. They can jet, like, 25 miles an hour -

Josh Clark: - Yeah -

Chuck Bryant: - if they need to.

Josh Clark: - which is 40 kilometers per hour.

Chuck Bryant: That's really fast.

Josh Clark: It is, and again, remember we were talking about the siphon? That's how they do it. They suck in a bunch of water into the mantle, seal it off, and then blow it out the siphon.

Chuck Bryant: And they can angle it and steer themselves that way, right?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: That's crazy.

Josh Clark: At the very least, they can shoot in the opposite direction at up to 25 miles an hour, through water, by the way -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah.

Josh Clark: - which is a lot -

Chuck Bryant: - Oh, this isn't through the air?

Josh Clark: No. They don't shoot out of the water. Wouldn't that be a weird world if you just looked out in the ocean and there were octopi just jumping out?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I remember the first time I saw the shark breach on the Discovery Channel. It was, like, mind-blowing for me when the shark leaps from the water - completely out of the water - the Great White. It's amazing.

Josh Clark: - Oh. I have not seen that.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it was one of the, like, money shots for Planet Earth. They caught it on, like, the super-slow-mo camera.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: It's pretty remarkable.

Josh Clark: Cool.

Chuck Bryant: So, should we talk about where they hang out - their life, basically - their little, solitary octopus life?

Josh Clark: Yeah, and I didn't realize this, although now that I've learned it, it makes sense. Octopuses live on their own. They pretty much only are around other living octopuses when they mate.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Even that's kinda a letdown.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: But yeah, they live by themselves in dens. Wherever they happen to be living right then is called their den. That can be anything from beneath some rocks to an old jar or something that made it down to the bottom of the ocean floor.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, if it's a small one, obviously.

Josh Clark: Right, but they can squeeze into some pretty tight areas.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark: Because again, they have no bones. But they change location, like, every couple of weeks and no one has ever been able to figure out why they do that.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, for some reason that struck me as sad, but I don't know. I just picture, like, the lonely octopus -

Josh Clark: - The lonely, paranoid octopus.

Chuck Bryant: - yeah, getting sick of his den, and like, moving every two weeks, but maybe he just wants a change of scenery. Who knows?

Josh Clark: And octopi generally walk, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they use their suckers - everyone knows about the suckers on the underside of the arm - and they help to propel it along the bottom of the ocean. And those little suckers are really, really sensitive. They have 10,000 neurons a piece. So, while they're swimming along or walking along the ocean, they're also, like, checking things out with their suckers like food and stuff like that - or threats.

Josh Clark: And we should say at this point that we've been talking - we probably should have said this at the beginning. But if you're an octopus nerd, we've been talking the entire time about the non-finned octopus - the incirrate.

Chuck Bryant: - Right, sure.

Josh Clark: Not the much rarer, and less discussed, and less studied cirrate, or finned octopus.

Chuck Bryant: I didn't look up a picture of those. Do you know what they look like?

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: I don't either.

Josh Clark: They have fins.

Chuck Bryant: I feel bad for those guys because no one ever talks about them.

Josh Clark: Well, they keep to themselves.

Chuck Bryant: Do they?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Like all octopi?

Josh Clark: So, Chuck, we've gotten to the point now where the most unsettling part of any octopus, for me, emerges, and that is the beak.

Chuck Bryant: It's awesome.

Josh Clark: Octopuses' squishy, boneless, muscular, little, weird things have a beak very similar to a parrot's.

Chuck Bryant: I know, a little stabby, strong beak.

Josh Clark: - Right smack-dab in the center of the underside of their head, where all their legs come together.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, it's up inside the mouth -

Josh Clark: - Bleh.

Chuck Bryant: - and they don't have standard teeth per se, but they have the beak, and they have something called a radula, which is a barbed tongue. So basically, they'll use the beak to crack a clam open.

Josh Clark: Yeah, you don't need teeth when you have a beak like that.

Chuck Bryant: I know, and then they'll use the radula to, like, scrape out the meat like a little finger to scoop it out.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: And then the last thing I want you to say because that's really awesome.

Josh Clark: The salivary papillae?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Yeah, that's, like, this - it's a bone. It's like a tooth-covered organ that they can -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah.

Josh Clark: - shoot out from between the beak, which by the way, are surrounded by lips.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: They can shoot it out and drill into a shell. Like a shell they can't open, they'll just drill into it, and suck out.

Chuck Bryant: - That's crazy.

Josh Clark: Have you seen Starship Troopers?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Do you remember the brain worm or the brain bug?

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah. That's probably based on that, huh?

Josh Clark: - It's sucking brains out, yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh, does it remind you of that?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I think it's pretty cool that they have those - just those little - it's like a Swiss Army knife depending on what they wanna use -

Josh Clark: - Right.

Chuck Bryant: - or what they need to use, they can just, like, use whatever tool that's inside their little mouth.

Josh Clark: Right, and when they come upon prey, most likely what they'll do is they'll wrap their legs. They'll catch it, like, in a net, and then pull it close to them, and just envelop it completely, and just go to town with it on - with the beak.

Chuck Bryant: Right, or one of the other tools.

Jo sh Clark: Bleh.

Chuck Bryant: The other cool thing, too, about the salivary papillae is that - or "pap-i-la". Is it "pap-e" or "pap-i-la"?

Josh Clark: "Pap-e-a".

Chuck Bryant: "Tor-te-ya," "tor-til-a". That thing secretes something that erodes the shell. So, if it's, like, a really tough clam to get into while they're drilling in, it secretes this thing that, like, erodes the shell as it's digging in to make it easier.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: That's just another amazing, like, evolutionary feat to me.

Josh Clark: Yeah. How did you know octopuses were so interesting to select this article?

Chuck Bryant: I didn't. I always thought they were cool looking, and I just happened upon the article, and read the first page, and was like, "Oh, this is a keeper."

Josh Clark: The male pillow octopus got you?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, we should talk about that little guy.

Josh Clark: Oh, we definitely will. We will talk about that guy with reproduction. How about that?

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: So, first, we're gonna talk about being born and the feeding goes directly into that, appropriately enough because octopuses are masters at metabolizing food. Actually, an octopus, by the time it dies, it will weigh one-third of all the food it's ever eaten.

Chuck Bryant: That's crazy.

Josh Clark: It puts food to use that well.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And apparently, a young octopus increases its body weight 5 percent daily. Wow.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, that's crazy and they don't know a lot about the little baby octopus, but some of them they do know will, like, kinda float near the surface as tiny, tiny little specks, and as they grow, they start to fall. Then, some of them though are born slightly larger, like, on the sea floor.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: - But they're on their own.

Josh Clark: - But that's about it.

Chuck Bryant: Once they're born, that's like -

Josh Clark: - Well, yeah. Once - well, let's talk about -

Chuck Bryant: - Let's back it up.

Josh Clark: - reproduction, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant : How is that little thing born?

Josh Clark: So, tell everybody about the male pillow octopus.

Chuck Bryant: Well, the male pillow octopus is - one of the cool things about it is that it's tiny, tiny, tiny. How big is this thing?

Josh Clark: About a couple centimeters.

Chuck Bryant: A couple of centimeters long weighs less than a gram.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: The trick - and you think, "All right, that's cool. There are small things in the world."

Josh Clark: I think I've eaten one of those.

Chuck Bryant: The trick is - by accident?

Josh Clark: No, sushi.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, okay.

Josh Clark: Never again.

Chuck Bryant: The trick is though; the females of the same species are more than six feet long and weigh 100 pounds.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: They're 40,000 times the size of the male.

Josh Clark: Yeah, and Jennifer Horton put in a perspective here. That would be like one of us asking out the - well, asking out - let me put that in air quotes - a woman five times?

Chuck Bryant: Four times.

Josh Clark: Four times as large as the Statue of Liberty -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah.

Josh Clark: - proportionally.

Chuck Bryant: That's a lot of woman.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: But, so you might think, "Well, how in the world would these things mate if this octopus is so much bigger?" What happens in the case of the male pillow octopus is he will - he has an arm.

Josh Clark: All octopuses have an arm.

Chuck Bryant: Well, all octopuses have the arm that contain the sperm. Is that right?

Josh Clark: Yeah, it's called a hectocotylus - hectocotylus.

Chuck Bryant: And instead of doing what some octopuses do, which is to put that with the woman, they will actually break it off and just say, "Here, just take this and use it whenever you need it."

Josh Clark: "And please don't hurt me."

Chuck Bryant: Then, they swim away, and die.

Josh Clark: Well, the males actually die within a couple of months after reproducing once. So, they pull of their hecto -

Chuck Bryant: - Hectocotylus.

Josh Clark: - It's like a naturalization class in here -

Chuck Bryant: - Hectocotylus.

Josh Clark: - hectocotylus - thank you - and giving it to the female, which she just stores in her mantle.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, she keeps it until she's ready -

Josh Clark: - Until later.

Chuck Bryant: - to have babies, basically.

Josh Clark: Right. So, then she lays the eggs, takes out the sperm arm -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, the little magic wand - the hectocotylus.

Josh Clark: Right and then basically just spreads it over the eggs to fertilize them, or there are some species of octopi where the hectocotylus is inserted into the female's oviduct.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: So, there is some sorta sexual act.

Chuck Bryant: The traditional thing that you think about.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: It happens sometimes.

Josh Clark: Lots of ink.

Chuck Bryant: Before we move on from the little guy though, the little pillowcase guy - I'm sorry - the little pillow guy. There's no case. He also has been known to rip of the tentacles of a Man O' War and use it as a sword to protect himself because he's, like, built up a resistance to the poison.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I love this little guy.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: He's like the fiercest little beast in the ocean.

Josh Clark: And what's interesting is he's not supposed to be doing that because that's tool use.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Wait. There's was actually, I think , like a couple of months back there was a big sensation on the Internet about an octopus being filmed using coconut shell halves as portable habitats, I guess.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: So, he just carried it around.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: Then every once in a while, he'd look around, and, like, get under it. It was pretty cool.

Chuck Bryant: But animals aren't supposed to use tools, right?

Josh Clark: No, they're not, but octopi do.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: So, like you said, they'll have the little egg hatch and the female will die as well after hatching the egg, which is really sad, and -

Josh Clark: - Yes, but she protects it the entire time.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, she, like, blows water over it and keeps it nice and clean.

Josh Clark: And she might be caring for these eggs for between two to ten months.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And she's not eating at all.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: Yeah, and then once they start to hatch, she's out of there. She might not - she doesn't die quite then, but she's -

Chuck Bryant: - Right, but they're terminal.

Josh Clark: - gone. So, they're solitary. Aside from the moment when they're mating, and the moment these eggs hatch, they're on their own. Like, octopi are solitary animals.

Chuck Bryant: Well, and not a very good chance of survival either, right?

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: Don't a lot of them die?

Josh Clark: Yeah, with the Giant Pacific Octopus, which can grow up to, I think, 600 pounds -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, those are the big ones.

Josh Clark: Yeah. They have a 1 percent survival rate for going from hatchling to ten millimeters.

Chuck Bryant: Just to ten millimeters?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: Tragic. We need Sally Struthers in here.

Chuck Bryant: I know. What else we got?

Josh Clark: We have -

Chuck Bryant: - Oh, the personality stuff. That's pretty cool.

Josh Clark: Yeah, well, we were talking about them using tools. They're not supposed to do that because they're cephalopods, so they're supposed to be stupid. They're all mating and eating.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: And evading, maybe.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: But octopi kinda buck that trend among even cephalopods.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, they found some that have - some can open jars have - learned to open jars, which is pretty remarkable.

Josh Clark: Outside of their tanks.

Chuck Bryant: Well, that, too. They've found some that have gotten outside of their tanks and, like, gotten into the food bins.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: And then they've found some that can open jars, some that can work mazes.

Josh Clark: Some that know, like, to pick a red ball over a white ball.

Chuck Bryant: That's so crazy.

Josh Clark: Some that can call the World Cup.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, absolutely.

Josh Clark: So, octopi aren't supposed to have personalities, but we have come to realize that they largely do thanks to the work of a marine biologist named Jennifer Mather, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, she and Roland Anderson are two biologists that kinda got the feeling that they might - from seeing all these things in these aquariums that they might - have a personality. That's kinda a hard thing to test.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: But they did it.

Josh Clark: What was the other guy's name? Roland what?

Chuck Bryant: Roland Anderson.

Josh Clark: Anderson. He was the one who was tending - or he worked at the Seattle aquarium.

Chuck Bryant: Was that w here it was?

Josh Clark: And he found out that the keeper's named three species of animals. I think it was otters, seals, and their Giant Pacific octopi.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, really?

Josh Clark: And normally, like, you reserve naming an animal based on its personality.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: And since octopuses aren't supposed to have personality, he wanted to know what was going on.

Chuck Bryant: Right.

Josh Clark: So, he went and found out, and he found that Leisure Suit Larry - apparently, this is a very touchy-feely octopus. When it's handlers would get in its tank, he'd just be all over them, like, "Hey, baby. How's it going?"

Chuck Bryant: - Right.

Josh Clark: And then Emily Dickinson was so shy that she eventually had to be replaced because she'd just hide behind the artificial barrier -

Chuck Bryant: - Oh, really?

Josh Clark: - and like would never come out.

Chuck Bryant: And like look just like it, too. So, people didn't notice her probably.

Josh Clark: Right, exactly, and then -

Chuck Bryant: - But she wrote poetry as well, I believe.

Josh Clark: Right, sad poetry, but good stuff. Then, there was Lucretia McEvil, right?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, and this one destroyed her tank - the interior of her tank.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: So, she was obviously pretty feisty.

Josh Clark: She was and apparently they were afraid to get in there with her because again, this is -

Chuck Bryant: - Oh, really?

Josh Clark: - Giant Pacific octopus. They can grow up to 600 pounds.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: So, if you have a McEvil one, it's trouble.

Chuck Bryant: Well, and once you see this video of it wrestling a shark, I would be like, "I'm not going anywhere near that thing."

Josh Clark: Right. So, Anderson and Mather decided to come up with some - I guess some stimuli. I think they opened the cage. They put a brush into the tank to see what they would do and I can't remember - there was another one. Then, they figured out that these octopus showed 19 distinct behaviors.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: And they put it into three buckets, right - activity, avoidance, and reactivity.

Chuck Bryant: So what happened?

Josh Clark: Well, what happened was they figured out that these octopus actually were showing personality.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: Like, an octopus would - you could say, "This octopus here, No. 89, is going to do this if we do that, but the octopus in the next tank over will do something different. That's personality." And octopus aren't supposed to have that. They also, this same group - I kinda looked over the article - it's in the February 2007 issue of Natural History, right?

Chuck Bryant: Uh-huh.

Josh Clark: They found that a couple of octopuses played -

Chuck Bryant: - Oh, really?

Josh Clark: - when they gave them a prescription filled with - like half-filled with water -

Chuck Bryant: - With OxyContin?

Josh Clark: - a couple of - right? Yeah. They really played. They got really lethargic after that.

Chuck Bryant: I bet.

Josh Clark: They would play with it like they were bouncing a ball -

Chuck Bryant: - Really?

Josh Clark: - in their tank.

Chuck Bryant: Wow.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: These little guys are awesome.

Josh Clark: They really are.

Chuck Bryant: And girls.

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: The other cool thing that they did - the octopuses did in these tests - was they wanted to see how they did with problem solving. So, they, like, wired clams shut so they couldn't - because traditionally they'll break the clam open and scoop it out, and they wanted to see if the octopus would just be like, "Oh, I'll just eat something else. I can't get into this one."

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: No, no. What these things did was they said, "Okay, I'll get out my drill and even though this is not how we get into clams, I'm gonna drill into this clam." And not only that, but after a few tries, they figured out the best point at the clam to drill in to get the best meat, like, right there in the center.

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: They figured all this out.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Unbelievable.

Josh Clark: They're very smart.

Chuck Bryant: Very smart.

Josh Clark: You could play cards with an octopus. There's been octopus gangsters before.

Chuck Bryant: Oh, yeah?

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: Um-hum.

Josh Clark: So, they're very smart.

Chuck Bryant: Sure.

Josh Clark: I mean, you have to have an organized brain, an organized mind, to participate in organized crime.

Chuck Bryant: I would think so.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: I hope everyone found this as fascinating as I did.

Josh Clark: I hope so, too.

Chuck Bryant: All they have to do is go and type in "octopus change color" and there's just, like, scores and scores of videos.

Josh Clark: And you could also read this very comprehensive article on the site -

Chuck Bryant: - Yeah, it was a good one.

Josh Clark: - How Octopuses Work.

Chuck Bryant: Um-hum.

Josh Clark: Remember, you can say octopuses, octopi - as a matter of fact, I think everybody should walk around and call them octopuses, and when they're corrected -

Chuck Bryant: -

Till people correct youJosh Clark: - you can be like, "No, jerk. You can say octopi, octopuses. Can't we all get along?"

Chuck Bryant: "And I found out because these other two jerks told me."

Josh Clark: Right.

Chuck Bryant: "Because some jerk wrote an article."

Josh Clark: And they'll be like, "Well, you're a jerk for listening to those two jerks," and then it'll just go downhill from there.

Chuck Bryant: I wonder what the octopus' garden is. You know that Beatles song that Ringo sang?

Josh Clark: No.

Chuck Bryant: Of course you don't. Yeah, "I'd like to be under the sea in an octopus' garden," I guess.

Josh Clark: Oh, is that the name of that song?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Oh, I thought that was from The Little Mermaid soundtrack.

Chuck Bryant: No, that's Under the Sea.

Josh Clark: Yeah.

Chuck Bryant: That's a different song.

Josh Clark: You just said - oh, got you. Well, if you wanna learn more about the octopuses, or the Beatles, or The Little Mermaid, I'm pretty sure you could find something about all three of them on our site. Just use the search bar at HowStuffWorks.com. And now it is time for listener mail.

Chuck Bryant: Yes, Josh. Andy in Houston says this: "Hey guys. Huge fan. After listening to your customs podcast about bringing items from embargoed countries, it took me back to some stuff I did in college. During the Columbus Day break in my freshman year at Clarkson University, 20 miles from the U.S.-Canadian border, a buddy and myself decided to go to Montreal for the day." "Once we got there, we bummed around the city and bought some Cuban cigars," which is, I guess, what you do in Montreal. "We decided that we'd wait to get back to campus to enjoy them. We pulled off the bands and figured we'd be just fine. We got to the border and the officers asked us why we were in Canada for six hours, and we just said, 'Tourism.' We were then instructed to pull into a garage so we could get searched. I guess two college kids hanging out in Montreal returning relatively soon threw up the red flag." "We were told to exit the cars so the dogs could check it out. We were brought inside and asked if we had any illegal substances, which we quickly handed over the cigars and were terrified. They said we could be charged with willingly smuggling illegal items," and since they pulled the bands off, they could have charged them with illegally altering material with the intent of bringing it into the U.S.A., which is exactly what they did.

Josh Clark: Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant: And he said in the end, they let him off with a warning, and his buddy's cupholder is still broken to this day from the car search. "We were so angry at customs that we decided to spite America by blasting Rush the whole way home. It seemed funny at the time." So, I guess they blasted Spirit of Radio and said, "We'll smoke our Cubans."

Josh Clark: Bastille Day or something.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Nice.

Chuck Bryant: So, that's Andy in Houston.

Josh Clark: In Houston?

Chuck Bryant: Houston, Texas is what he says - that's where -

Josh Clark: - But he went to school 20 miles from the Canadian border?

Chuck Bryant: It's a little shady, if you ask me. No wonder he's throwing up red flags.

Josh Clark: Talk about climate change.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah.

Josh Clark: Oh, well, if you wanna shame me for that terrible pun or you have a story you wanna share with us - you got anything?

Chuck Bryant: Let's plug Atlanta first.

Josh Clark: Oh, okay, yeah. Go ahead.

Chuck Bryant: We are having our Atlanta all-star trivia event, which is hopefully gonna kick off a nationwide tour, and it is going to be October 13th, at the Five Seasons Brewery, west side, some time in the evening. We'll get a time stamp soon.

Josh Clark: Just show up some time after 6:00 probably.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, I would say probably right in there. And should we announce our special guests?

Josh Clark: I think we can now, sure.

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, dude. We got some - three people verified we're very excited about.

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: So, go ahead.

Josh Clark: We've got John Hodgman.

Chuck Bryant: John Hodgman is coming to Atlanta -

Josh Clark: - For us.

Chuck Bryant: - for trivia.

Josh Clark: Yes.

Chuck Bryant: Just to play trivia.

Josh Clark: He's not just going down the block, like, in New York. He's coming down to Atlanta to play with us.

Chuck Bryant: From Brooklyn.

Josh Clark: Yeah, awesome.

Chuck Bryant: And also from Brooklyn -

Josh Clark: The esteemed Joe Randazzo, who is the editor of the fine, fine Onion newspaper.

Chuck Bryant: Yes.

Josh Clark: America's finest news source.

Chuck Bryant: Joe and John are both coming down, and then as of yesterday, we landed local legend Dave Willis, who is the co-creator of Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies.

Josh Clark: Yeah, on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.

Chuck Bryant: Absolutely, and we are super, super psyched that Dave is joining us and we're working on a couple of other people, but if no one else shows up, to me, that's like - that's a stud team right there.

Josh Clark: That is a stud team. We'll see if we can beat everybody.

Chuck Bryant: I don't even care about that. I'm just excited to get those people together.

Josh Clark: I'm gonna keep my mouth shut about Ohio and Virginia presidents.

Chuck Bryant: Okay.

Josh Clark: Okay?

Chuck Bryant: Yeah, we missed that one.

Josh Clark: So, if you wanna come play trivia with us, and Hodgman, and Randazzo, and Willis, we're gonna be hanging out at the Five Seasons Brewery on Wednesday, October 13th.

Chuck Bryant: You got it.

Josh Clark: And just send us an e-mail about whatever you want. How about that? Use your creativity. We have no thesis for you today. Just wrap it up, spank it on the bottom, and send it to StuffPodcast@HowStuffWorks.com.

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