Coastal Care Junior

What does an octopus eat? For a creature with a brain in each arm, whatever’s within reach – the Conversation

Octopus (by damn_unique CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED via Flickr).
Octopus (by damn_unique CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED via Flickr).

Question from Lily, age 4, Maryland

The octopus is one of the coolest animals in the sea.

For starters, they are invertebrates. That means they don’t have backbones like humans, lions, turtles and birds.

That may sound unusual, but actually, nearly all animals on Earth are invertebrates – about 97%.

Octopuses are a specific type of invertebrate called cephalopods. The name means “head-feet” because the arms of cephalopods surround their heads. Other types of cephalopods include squid, nautiloids and cuttlefish.

What do they eat?

As marine ecologistswe conduct research on how ocean animals interact with each other and their environments. We’ve mostly studied fish, from lionfish to sharks, but we have to confess we remain captivated by octopuses.

What octopuses eat depends on what species they are and where they live. Their prey includes gastropods, like snails and sea slugs; bivalves, like clams and mussels; crustaceans, like lobsters and crabs; and fish.

To catch their food, octopuses use lots of strategies and tricks. Some octopuses wrap their arms – not tentacles – around prey to pull them close. Some use their hard beak to drill into the shells of clams. All octopuses are venomous; they inject toxins into their prey to overpower and kill them…


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