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An Octopus as Jar-opener

By Rama Kumaraswamy; Illustration by Shinod AP

An Octopus as Jar-opener, Earth facts for kids: 111_1.gif Try opening a bottle of jam. See how skilfully your fingers wrap around the lid and unscrew it?

Now researchers at the Brighton University, United Kingdom, are carrying out an interesting study to see if the octopus, too, has the same skill. Makes sense considering it has so many 'hands' or tentacles!

The scientists have even made a gigantic glass aquarium, specially designed for the resident pet octopus, in the university laboratory. They have named it Roger, after the British actor Roger Moore who acted as James Bond in the Hollywood film Octopussy.

The researchers wanted to test Roger's intelligence and memory. So they lowered a bottle of jam with a crab in it, into his tank. Roger struggled a bit, but after 20 minutes of twisting and turning the jar, managed to open the lid.

In three days, clever Roger had mastered the fine art of opening stubborn lids within a minute. The scientists were delighted!

But after a gap of a few days when they tried the same experiment again, Roger had forgotten how to open the jar. Roger had a terrible short-term memory capability.

However, the scientists have not given up hope and Roger is still under observation.

The world of the octopus
There are about 200 species of octopus' in the world. The biggest is the Pacific Giant Octopus, which weighs over 100 kgs and has a tentacle span of more than seven metres. The smallest is the Atlantic Pygmy Octopus. This one is just two centimetres long.

This bag-like creature does not have any bones and it can squeeze itself into the tiniest of openings.

Did you know that octopuses are related to slowpoke snails? But unlike their slow-moving cousins, octopuses can move very fast indeed. That's because their tentacles are covered with small suction pads, with which they cling well to clammy rocks and slippery ocean floors.

These suction pads are also super-sensitive to touch and taste. An octopus' sense of taste is 10 to 100 times more sensitive than that of a human!

Its eyes, too, are highly developed. Thus it can see clearly in dark or murky water. That equips the clever octopus to hunt at night. This clever creature lures its pray by wriggling the tip of a tentacle so that it looks like a worm.

When it is threatened, the octopus secretes an inky substance. This is meant to confuse predators, which gives it time to escape.

Most poisons produced by the octopuses are too weak to harm humans. Only the Blue-Ringed Octopus is an exception - it produces enough poison to kill a human being.

 

An Octopus as Jar-opener [Earth facts for kids]
By Rama Kumaraswamy; Illustration by Shinod AP

 

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