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Old 22 October 2007, 12:54 AM
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Icon23 Wily fish-eating octopus

Comment: Here's a story I've heard again and again... just wondering if it
ever really happened... I took this from a message board post, but have
heard it myself repeatedly.

An awesome octopus story I heard once:

At some aquarium (I forget which) they had a tankful of saltwater tropical
fish. They were having problems with fish disappearing - and these were
pricey fish, so naturally they were worried. This pattern continued for a
while - every so often a fish would disappear without a trace from the
tank. No remains, no nothing. They concluded that one of the aquarium
staff was stealing the fish after hours and selling them to pet stores or
maybe private buyers. But they had no way of figuring out who, and they
didn't want to levy random accusations, so they decided to set up a hidden
camera to catch the thief in the act.

A few days later the culprit was revealed. Opposite that saltwater tank
was another saltwater tank, wherein lived an octopus. This fellow would
wait until it was late at night, crawl up the glass and out of his tank,
down across the room to the fish tank, open the top, crawl in, catch a
fish, bring it back to his tank and eat it there.
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  #2  
Old 22 October 2007, 01:49 AM
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Here's a thread from the previous board on the subject.
http://msgboard.snopes.com/message/u...01369/p/1.html
It never occurred to me that this might be a UL. But looking into it, it seems to have been told about numerous places and with all different kinds of endings. I was once told that the story, complete with footage, was featured on a television program. Now I'm starting to wonder if that's true.
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  #3  
Old 22 October 2007, 02:18 AM
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I have seen similar accounts written up in various zoology books on animal intelligence. The fact that octopi are escape artists seems to be pretty well documented, and they can travel fairly far out of water. I have never seen actual footage of any such event, though. I do know that octopi are pretty smart, and able to do things like open containers to get at fish.
Ganz, your point about it being told in various ways may support the UL theory, or it may just be that it is an occurrance that has happened more than once, with different outcomes. I don't know how you would go about verifying which one of those is correct, though.
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  #4  
Old 22 October 2007, 02:33 AM
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I don't remember which show or aquarium, but I saw the video of the octopus attacking and eating a shark.

It was a cool video.
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  #5  
Old 22 October 2007, 02:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geminilee View Post
Ganz, your point about it being told in various ways may support the UL theory, or it may just be that it is an occurrance that has happened more than once, with different outcomes.
Of course. Or it may have spread from one or a few true stories. When this came up on the board last time, I remember checking it out but didn't get far.
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  #6  
Old 22 October 2007, 11:42 AM
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Goldfish

It happened at the Seattle Aquarium, although in that case their octopus tank was close to the shellfish tank where kids can pet starfish and see living clams, and they could never seem to keep the clams fully stocked.

Apparently lowering the water level in the octopus tank has helped the problem, although their female still forages from time to time. The octopus tank there is pretty close to the shellfish display (which is low to the ground and not at all covered), so it looks like the octopus could pull it off fairly easily. The octos in question are Giant Pacific Octopus.
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  #7  
Old 24 October 2007, 01:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug4.7 View Post
I don't remember which show or aquarium, but I saw the video of the octopus attacking and eating a shark.

It was a cool video.
Wow! Nice clip!
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  #8  
Old 24 October 2007, 07:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lancastrian View Post
It happened at the Seattle Aquarium, although in that case their octopus tank was close to the shellfish tank where kids can pet starfish and see living clams, and they could never seem to keep the clams fully stocked.
Can you please tell us where we can find that information? Since it's said to have happened at so many places, one wants some names or dates or... something more than another "credible" account with the name of a place but no other verifiable info. The problem is that there are many such reports on the web.
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Old 24 October 2007, 11:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
Can you please tell us where we can find that information? Since it's said to have happened at so many places, one wants some names or dates or... something more than another "credible" account with the name of a place but no other verifiable info. The problem is that there are many such reports on the web.
I can contact the aquarium directly if you'd like and report back. Unfortunately they don't put transcripts of their octopus talks on their website.

Other sightings: http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/visitor/...r/octopus.html
http://marine.alaskapacific.edu/octo...4-JLittle.html


I personally don't think this is likely to happen in a pet store, as the octopus kept there would probably be too small to get very far. The GPO is a large, smart, strong creature that can really only be kept by aquariums, and is far more likely to both be able to and want to do this.
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  #10  
Old 24 October 2007, 12:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lancastrian View Post
I personally don't think this is likely to happen in a pet store, as the octopus kept there would probably be too small to get very far. The GPO is a large, smart, strong creature that can really only be kept by aquariums, and is far more likely to both be able to and want to do this.
I don't recall hearing a version of it happening in a pet store but the GPO is a reference to the version you heard, not necessarily the story. Also, I wonder if you remember any other details, such as when it would have happened. (The story has been around for quite some time.) Also, did the story include the essential element of the hidden camera to catch the thief (sometimes told as a hidden night watchman). Most versions I've heard involve some kind of expensive and rare fish, not clams. To confirm whether this is the famous story or a rather different story, or perhaps an example of ostentation, all of these details and their sources would be best considered.
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Old 24 October 2007, 05:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
I don't recall hearing a version of it happening in a pet store but the GPO is a reference to the version you heard, not necessarily the story. Also, I wonder if you remember any other details, such as when it would have happened. (The story has been around for quite some time.) Also, did the story include the essential element of the hidden camera to catch the thief (sometimes told as a hidden night watchman). Most versions I've heard involve some kind of expensive and rare fish, not clams. To confirm whether this is the famous story or a rather different story, or perhaps an example of ostentation, all of these details and their sources would be best considered.
Ah, sorry about the pet store comment. The detail of "pricey" fish keeps making me assume the OP is talking about a store even when it says the story comes from an aquarium, as I'm not used to aquariums classifying fish by cost.

As for when it happened, this was told to me by an aquarium volunteer last year, in response to my question of why the water level in the open-top GPO tank was so low. No camera or guard was mentioned, simply that the clams were dissappearing and the octopus was assumed to be the cause. Lower the water in the tank, the octopus can't get out to the clams (I assume because it was no longer able to haul itself out of its tank in the first place, but I could be wrong), and then the clams stopped being lost. As clams are a favorite food of GPOs. both tanks are open-topped, and they are very close together, that guess made sense to me. And as denying the octopus access to the clam tank made the problem go away, it's assumed he was the culprit. Granted, this could all have been a story, but there was so little distance between the two tanks and no tops to fiddle with it looked pretty possible. I'll be contacting the aquarium when I get home tonight, and see what they say.
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  #12  
Old 24 October 2007, 05:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lancastrian View Post
{snip} there was so little distance between the two tanks and no tops to fiddle with it looked pretty possible.
I'm just curious why the octopus would go back to the original tank instead of staying with the food source. Would something draw it back to the first tank?

Now I'm tempted to make the Octopus of NIMH joke.
and an extra for using same joke twice in an hour
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  #13  
Old 24 October 2007, 06:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paveman View Post
I'm just curious why the octopus would go back to the original tank instead of staying with the food source. Would something draw it back to the first tank?
Probably water depth. The shellfish tank would be very shallow so the kids can reach into the water and play with the inhabitants. If the octopus is anything like the size of the one in the vs Shark clip, it would need a much deeper level of water.
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  #14  
Old 24 October 2007, 09:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paveman View Post
I'm just curious why the octopus would go back to the original tank instead of staying with the food source. Would something draw it back to the first tank?
Well, in the UL, that's the hook. The listener is supposed to wonder if the octopus was so smart that it knew it could continue eating the fish if it went back to its cage.

My guess is that octopus escapes are very common. They can squeeze into a hole or tube that's extremely narrow. Aquarium designers have a hard time designing for them. So I'm wondering if some of these stories are just escaped octopuses (please don't say it's octopi -- it isn't Latin!) that get exaggerated into the UL.
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  #15  
Old 24 October 2007, 09:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug4.7 View Post
I don't remember which show or aquarium, but I saw the video of the octopus attacking and eating a shark.

It was a cool video.
That's creepy. But not as creepy as....

MANTIS SHRIMP!!!!!!!!
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  #16  
Old 24 October 2007, 10:04 PM
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Goldfish

I too have heard the Seattle Aquarium story - I think it happened farther back than the local papers' online archives, though.

Howver, in Discover Magazine from October 2003:

Quote:
Researchers and aquarium attendants tell tales of octopuses that have tormented and outwitted them. Some captive octopuses lie in ambush and spit in their keepers' faces. Others dismantle pumps and block drains, causing costly floods, or flex their arms in order to pop locked lids. Some have been caught sneaking from their tanks at night into other exhibits, gobbling up fish, then sneaking back to their tanks, damp trails along walls and floors giving them away.
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  #17  
Old 06 November 2007, 10:25 PM
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Years ago I worked at a tropical fish store which sometimes sold small octopuses. We kept them in hamster balls to keep them out of trouble. Even if they could have escaped, unless they found the feeder guppy tank, they'd be in greater danger of being eaten by the fish than the other way around.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lancastrian View Post

I personally don't think this is likely to happen in a pet store, as the octopus kept there would probably be too small to get very far. The GPO is a large, smart, strong creature that can really only be kept by aquariums, and is far more likely to both be able to and want to do this.
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