Ollie the Octopus Meets the Giant Pacific Octopus at Steinhart Aquarium

Hello, my name is Ollie the Octopus. Today I’m interviewing the “new” giant pacific octopus  (GPO) at Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, California.

I say “new” because he’s new to the aquarium but already a few months old. Here’s my interview:

Ollie: Hello my octopus friend! How are you?

Giant Pacific Octopus: I’m doing fine. I’m enjoying my new digs.

Ollie: Where are you from?

GPO: I’m from the cold waters off the Pacific Northwest (of the U.S.)

Ollie: What was your journey like getting from your old home to your new home?

GPO: It was quite exciting. I meet human divers every now and then. But this time I got caught in a net by one of them. One second I’m playing with the diver’s hand, and the next I was feeling the sunlight at the surface. 

I was placed in a dark container. It felt like forever, but forever to an octopus is much different than to a human.  Most octopuses live only a year but GPO’s in captivity can live 3-5 years. So forever for me might only be a human day.

In my dark container, I was in a plastic bag. The water sloshed around a lot. I tried to sleep but couldn’t tell if it was night (when I’m usually awake) or day (when I’m asleep as I’m nocturnal). 

In any case, eventually I saw light again. I was placed in my new home, a tank full of cold water. I love and need the many rocks to hide in. Though I prefer my favorite corner near the window and water outlet.

Ollie: How is it getting used to your new home?

GPO: I hid at first. But once a day I would get to feel and taste a human hand and arm. It’s so much fun. My 2000 suckers not only feel but also taste! Each sucker has more taste receptors than a human tongue. And each human tastes different. Not enough mucus on them though in my opinion.

The kelp (a type of seaweed) in my tank tastes different than back home in the wild. Wonder why?

Ollie: Oh, I think it’s plastic and not real.

GPO: Makes sense.

Ollie: What do you get fed?

GPO: I get fish, squid and my favorite, blue crabs. I get food every other day. I don’t have to hunt, it’s quite the luxury. 

Ollie: Do you get bored?

GPO: No, I get toys.  My favorites are a plastic airplane and helicopter. I grab them and put them in front of the jets of water and watch them move around the tank. I also get closed containers with food inside. I rip off the lid in seconds and sometimes there’s a capelin (a small type of fish) inside.

Ollie: Do you miss the ocean?

GPO: It’s weird but I don’t have the whole ocean to explore anymore. I’ve explored every nook and cranny of my new tank. The only thing that changes is which human brings me food, plays with me and gives me toys.

I can see outside my tank—more humans, but I can’t touch them. 

Ollie: Do you think about escaping? Octopuses in aquariums are known to do that…

GPO: Around the edges of my tank there’s bumpy stuff my suckers can’t hold onto (astroturf). Although most animals live in the present moment, octopuses have a great memory. We can navigate to new areas of the ocean floor and still find our way back to our den. 

And we remember which humans bring us food!

Ollie: Thanks for meeting with me today!

GPO: My pleasure! Come back anytime to visit me.

Note from Ollie the Octopus on his second visit to Steinhart Aquarium: The giant pacific octopus is now almost a year old and has gone from 8 pounds to approximately 19 pounds! We octopuses grow really quickly, from plankton-sized to 20 pounds in the span of a year.

More from Ollie the Octopus:

My Octopus Teacher Review by Ollie the Octopus

Ollie the Octopus on International Cephalopod Awareness Days

Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, CA

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