7 Weird and Wonderful Octopuses

iStock/Trueog
iStock/Trueog

There's a lot to admire about octopuses: They can squeeze through holes many times smaller than their body size, change their appearance in milliseconds, and are considered the most intelligent invertebrates on earth. But even within the impressive order octopoda, there are several sub-groups that stand out. Whether they're cute or terrifying, these octopuses are definitely all noteworthy.

1. BLANKET OCTOPUS

Blanket octopuses are the fashion queens of the undersea world. Females sport transparent webs connecting some of their arms, and when they swim the flesh flows like a gauzy gown beneath them. The "blanket" comes in handy when scaring off predators; to make themselves appear bigger, the octopuses will spread their arms and the webbing along with it, kind of like Dracula opening his cape. Their dramatic look isn't the only thing that makes blanket octopuses notable. They can detach their arms in desperate situations, and on the offensive side, they can break the stinging tentacles off Portuguese Man O' Wars and use them as weapons. The males of the species aren't quite as impressive: At less than an inch long, they weigh 10,000 to 40,000 times less than the 6-foot-long female.

2. GHOST OCTOPUS

The so-called "ghost octopus" is the most recently discovered species on this list. Known for its pale, translucent skin, it was first identified by NOAA researchers near Hawaii in 2016 and is so new to science it doesn't have an official name yet. We do know that the cephalopod likes to hang out deep beneath the sea surface and that it makes some extreme parenting choices. After attaching its egg clutch to a dead sponge and wrapping its body around it, the creature stays that way for several years without feeding, ultimately sacrificing itself to safely bring its young into the world.

3. MIMIC OCTOPUS

Several octopus species are masters of disguise, but none can top the mimic octopus in terms of shape-shifting prowess. Along with changing the texture of its skin, it can contort its body to resemble a specific marine creature. To copy a sea snake, it hides six of its arms and stretches the remaining two out; when acting like a lionfish, it arranges its arms to look like long spines. It can also mimic the banded sole, and possibly anemones and jellyfish. Every animal the mimic octopus models itself after has something in common—they're toxic, and by convincing predators that it's the real thing, the octopus avoids becoming dinner.

4. STAR-SUCKER PYGMY OCTOPUS

iStock/AndamanSE

The star-sucker pygmy octopus, or Octopus wolfi, is as cute as its name suggests. It lives in shallow waters in the Pacific ocean, but it's still easy to miss. It's the smallest of all the known octopus species, measuring just under an inch long and weighing less than a gram.

5. DUMBO OCTOPUS

Dumbo octopuses make up their own adorable genus: Grimpoteuthis. Instead of long, separate arms, their appendages are connected by an umbrella-like web, and they use two ear-like fins on either side of their heads to flap through the water—hence the nickname. They're typically found in deep ocean waters, which makes them difficult to study. Only recently did scientists learn that Dumbo octopuses are equipped with two flappable "wings" as soon as they hatch from their eggs.

6. COCONUT OCTOPUS

The coconut octopus uses a primitive method to hide in plain sight. After getting its suckers on coconut halves (or shells, as you can see in the video above), it will carry them around and close the makeshift shelter around its malleable body whenever it feels threatened. The tool has proven so valuable to the animal's survival that coconut octopuses will awkwardly walk across the seafloor in order to haul around husks that are bigger than their bodies, even though swimming would allow them to get around much faster.

7. BLUE-RINGED OCTOPUS

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Like many things in nature, the blue-ringed octopus is as striking as it is dangerous. The electric-blue rings that mark its body are a warning of its venomous bite, and while all octopuses are toxic, the blue-ring octopus is the only one that's deadly to humans. Just one nip from its beak can trigger potentially fatal paralysis; there's enough tertodotoxin in its body to suffocate 10 men. Scientists believe that the toxins aren't actually produced by the octopus itself, but rather come from microbes taking up residence in its salivary glands.

Save Up to 93 Percent on 8 Gaming Accessories and Enter to Win a Free Nintendo Switch Bundle

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Stackcommerce

The Nintendo Switch is one of the hottest video game consoles of the past few decades, with worldwide sales topping 55 million (that's more than the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64, and it's only a few million behind the original NES). The problem with a console being so popular is that it's not always easy to spot one on store shelves. If you haven't had luck finding one in recent months, you can enter this contest to win your very own Nintendo Switch, along with a copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a pair of Switch-compatible Logitech wireless headphones, and a $300 Nintendo gift card. Head here for more details.

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The Queen’s Guard May Have to Give Up Their Iconic Bearskin Hats

Can you tell that this is real bear fur?
Can you tell that this is real bear fur?
Defence Images, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) has given its leaders the chance to negotiate new trade deals and maybe even ban the sale of certain products—like fur. It’s something animal rights activists have long been pushing for, and a recently publicized letter from UK environment secretary George Eustice suggests that the government will indeed investigate the possibility.

As The Independent reports, Eustice wrote to the chief executive of the British Fur Trade Association that “once the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU has been established, there will be an opportunity to consider further steps it could take in relation to fur sales.” It’s far from a definitive proclamation, but since Eustice has seemed open to banning fur in the past, the letter has been taken as a positive sign for the anti-fur movement.

If the UK does eventually prohibit the sale of fur, this could mean the end of the authentic bearskin hats worn by the Queen’s Guard, who are most often seen stationed outside Buckingham Palace. According to Londonist, the 18-inch hats are created with fur from black bears killed during Canada’s annual black bear cull—a large-scale hunt that helps keep the population under control—and the UK Ministry of Defence purchases up to 100 new hats for the famously unflappable infantrymen each year.

The tradition of donning such eccentric headgear dates back to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when Napoleon’s Imperial Guard wore similar hats to make them seem taller and more intimidating. After the French were defeated by the Duke of Wellington and his British army, Britain adopted the hats as a symbol of victory.

But even if the UK does prohibit fur in the future, the Queen’s Guard could still keep the custom going. After all, there are plenty of convincing kinds of fake fur on the market these days. And as for what Queen Elizabeth II might think about the shift, we’re guessing she’d condone it; she herself gave up wearing fur products in 2019.

[h/t The Independent]