I have so many students producing high quality work that I feel should be published! The students do have the opportunity to submit work to Magnum Opus, an IEW publication, but that is a long, slow process. In the interim, I would like to feature some of their work here on my website. The essay below was written by Caleb Duke, a 15 year old Level 2 student. This is a researched essay, considered a Unit 8 paper in the IEW method. I so enjoyed reading Caleb’s paper, and I hope you will, also!
And yes, “octopuses” is the correct plural form of octopus. 🙂 Also, please
disregard the incorrect formatting of the Works Cited list. MLA formatting, which is rather odd, does not seem to be an option in this platform.
‘‘The Kraken!’’ scream terrified sailors, as gigantic tentacles encircle their ship. Understandably, the sailors are terrified of both the size of the monstrous beast, and how unfamiliar they are with this strange creature. This ferocious creature in Disney’s popular franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean, is actually based on the octopus and other cephalopods. Although octopuses cannot help being strange and weird, depicting them as mindless human killers could not be further from the truth. Octopuses are some of the most intelligent creatures in the water. Under the aqua waves, octopuses interact with humans, because they are curious creatures. Swimming right up to daring divers, they very rarely harm them. In fact, the most dangerous octopus, the blue ring octopus, is not a gigantic beast that drowns entire ships (Main). It is between a miniscule five and eight inches in length, and uses a powerful toxin, which it injects by biting. Even this most dangerous animal will only bother divers if they threaten it(Main). While octopuses are generally not dangerous, they are some of the most intelligent creatures in the ocean (Borrell). However, their intelligence is not just because of their brain. What makes them so smart? They possess a unique cluster of nerves. This cluster of nerves is larger than any other invertebrate’s brain, and they actually have nine of them! One is found in each arm (Borrell). This intelligence is clearly evident in how they use their unique anatomy, behave in their dangerous wild, and act in captivity. An analysis of these behaviors reveals that octopuses are some of the most intelligent and engaging creatures in the ocean.
Three hearts (Thomas 8). Eight arms. Nine brains. Yet not a single bone in their body (Thomas 9). While no one can deny that an octopus’s anatomy is interesting, the intelligent use of this anatomy is astounding. When their azure blue blood and freakishly large head are put into account, octopuses seem like tentacled aliens. Due to their odd appearance, one could gaze at them for hours. However, that seems quite unlikely. Disappearing in as little as five seconds, octopuses have complex camouflage systems, allowing them to hide from predators, ambush prey, and entice mates. This camouflage works almost like a television, because thousands of miniscule sacs act as individual pixels, changing color to create a larger picture. (Spirn 17). An octopus can also manipulate its skin to have different textures (Spirn 17). This works almost like human goosebumps. These creatures, which are actually very slow, use their superior intelligence to escape predators. An octopus may turn black, then release ink into the water and turn white. The befuddled predator will attack the midnight ink, not noticing the now white octopus smugly swimming away. One type of octopus actually buries six arms in the sand and makes the other two appear like a snake to scare away predators (Spirn 19). If truly threatened, an octopus will detach an arm as a noble sacrifice so it can escape; the arm will eventually regenerate. (Thomas 29). Strangely, the arm will continue to act attached to the octopus, since it has its own brain, even trying to pass food back to the nonexistent head (Thomas 12). When hunting prey, octopuses change up their hunting patterns, an action very few animals can perform. They use advanced camouflage. They hide in ink. They confuse predators. All of these actions are only effective because of the octopus’ intelligence. Octopuses use their advanced anatomy, coupled with superior intelligence, to outsmart predators and catch prey.
Octopuses use their immense intelligence in the wild to outsmart other animals. Hilariously, some octopuses actually scoot along the ocean floor under the protection of half a coconut. (Downer 29) Discovered by a predator, these octopuses will put two coconut halves together to create an impenetrable shield, because they use the suction cups on the tentacles to hold the coconut halves together (Downer 31). During scavenging time, octopuses sometimes walk on two tentacles, while the other six are free to grab objects they want to use later (Pearce 24). Because it has no bones, octopuses will make carefully hidden dens in places only they can squeeze into with their gelatinous bodies. These dens are normally under rocks or inside cracks, but octopuses, which are very resourceful creatures, will even make dens in bottles or jars careless humans accidently lose (Pearce 10). Since many creatures would love to make a delicious meal of the intelligent octopus, octopuses collect rocks and shells to build defensive fortifications around their den (March). An octopus might even jump onto land to ambush prey (March). Like a crocodile clamping its jaws on a deer, the octopus explodes out of the seemingly-calm water, grabs the unfortunate animal, and drags it into the cold, unforgiving depths. No animal is safe. Octopuses hunt by spreading their body over the sand like a parachute and poke holes into the sand with their tentacles (Thomas 17). When their frantic prey attempt to escape, they find themselves trapped under the merciless octopus. Octopuses’ superior intelligence gives them an edge in their wild habitat.
Octopuses continue to use their unique intelligence even while in captivity. In the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium in California, employees punched in, only to find 200 gallons of water soaking the floor (Borrell). Comically, an octopus had broken a water recycling tube and directed its stream of water to pour out of its tank for ten hours. “It just found something loose and just pulled on it. They are very smart creatures,” states the aquarium’s education manager. Very smart creatures indeed, as they tend to cause mayhem while captive in aquariums. Sneaking around at night, an octopus in Britain once stealthily crept into the next tank and ate the scrumptious lumpfish kept there, and then returned to its own tank. It was a while before the culprit was realized (Borrell). When a New Zealand aquarium octopus named Inky grew bored of the quiet life, he, in a real-life Finding Nemo story, escaped through a drainage tube to the ocean (March). Octopuses play and have personalities. Both of these are indications of intelligence, as shown in domestic pets. (Borrell). A bored octopus, which had been put in an empty tank with only a floating pill bottle to keep it company, began to shoot a surge of water at the bottle. This caused the bottle to hit a streaming jet of water in the tank and drift back to the octopus. This is an underwater equivalent of bouncing a rubber ball. Because they have different personalities, octopuses react differently to threatening and alerting situations, as well as being fed. Some octopuses are curious, some are suspicious, and some are brash and violent. They sometimes even squirt aquarium workers they dislike in the face with water (Borrell). They are efficient puzzle solvers, opening bottles to gain the food inside, sometimes even politely screwing the lid back on after they have eaten, and solving puzzles in sixteen seconds that took four hours to build (March). Even in captivity or experiments, octopuses continue to use their intelligence to outsmart and astound the humans watching them.
The underappreciated and amazing octopus continues to astound those who give heed to their superior intelligence. By observing their unique anatomy and studying their behaviors in the wild and captivity, one can learn much about the colorful octopuses’ intelligence. Most importantly, the octopus, a close cousin of the simple garden snail, is easily among the smartest animals on the planet. Sliding down a grimy drainage pipe to the ocean, solving puzzles, and outsmarting predators, these octopuses are guided through extraordinary intelligence, while other animals stumble blindly through instinct. Where others sit docilely in their oppressive tanks, octopuses spend many waking moments planning their escape. In fact, an octopus is one of the most likely animals to escape captivity (March). Because they are so intelligent, these odd octopuses outsmart and outwit the obnoxious and obstinate creatures which try to best them. However, octopuses’ extraordinary brains triumph. Incredibly, they continue to astound us. Perhaps these astounding creatures are actually diminutive Krakens, always waiting for the right moment to use their awe-inspiring intelligence to strike.
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March, Eric. “Octopus Intelligence: Here Are 13 of the Most Frighteningly
Smart Things They Can Do.” Upworthy, 20 Apr. 2016,
Pearce, Kevin. Being an Octopus. Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2014.
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Spirn, Michele. Octopuses. Bearport Pub., 2007.
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