In the past, the giant octopus was associated with tales of horror. Stories were
told of how the giant octopus would attack boats and men. These animals would
rise out of the sea and terrorize passing ships, even causing them to sink. Yet
in reality, octopuses are the exact opposite. They are very shy creatures and
also quite smart.
In 1866, the famous writer Victor Hugo wrote a novel called
'Le Travailleurs de la Mer'. In this story, he wrote of a showdown between a man
and an octopus. He described the octopus as a horrible, vicious creature, truly
something to be feared. In the story, the man won the battle with the octopus
after much struggle. The novel gave the octopus a level of 'popularity' in Paris
at that time. Newspapers called it the 'devil fish'. It was after Victor Hugo's
novel that people hated and feared the octopus.
The octopus is actually a predator in the sea, but not one that hunts for
people. The octopus feeds on a variety of sea creatures, such as crabs. It
gently drops down onto the seabed, trapping crabs. It hunts by shooting out a
poison into the water to stun the crab and then it uses its beak to crack the
shell of the crab and eat the meat. Between its many tentacles are pieces of
skin, called a web, and this is used by the octopus to carry as many as a dozen
crabs back to its den. Apart from crabs, octopuses also eat other types of
shellfish like abalone. Under some circumstances, like when it is in captivity
and under a lot of stress, the octopus even eats its own tentacles. When other
predators like whales or sea lions hunt the octopus, it sometimes escapes by
breaking off its tentacles, leaving them in the mouths of its hunter while it
makes its escape.
Octopuses are actually shy creatures that seem to prefer being left alone.
Due to the popularity of scuba diving, scientists have been able to prove that
octopuses are far from being fierce monsters that everyone thought they were. In
fact, for some divers, meeting an octopus has become a special moment in their
dive underwater, something they look forward to.
A relative of the squid, the octopus defends itself in the same way. Both
quirt out black ink to evade predators. It is believed that the octopus squirts
ink to create a smokescreen before its escape. It is also believed that the ink
that is squirted out floats lightly and takes the shape of an octopus, thus
perplexing the predator and allowing time
for the octopus to make its escape.