Although they’re sometimes jokingly referred to as “the spiders of the sea,” octopus (plural- octopuses) have little in common with spiders, other than the fact that they both share eight legs.
Technically, octopuses (order Octopoda) are invertebrates that belong to the mollusc family, making them a close relative to snails (which, ironically, is one of their favorite foods). They are further classified as cephalopods, a class that includes squids and cuttlefish. The main difference between octopus and squid species is that octopuses tend to be cave-dwellers on the ocean floor whereas squid prefer the open ocean.
Since octopuses tend to live in colder climates in the deep water and the ocean floor, they have three hearts. This allows them to pump blood to all eight arms, giving them full control over their entire body even in extreme cold and water pressure areas.
Another little known fact about order Octopoda is that they have nine brains! They have a large central brain and a smaller brain for each of their legs. Each brain maintains full control over each arm, but the central brain is able to take full control like a conductor directing a symphony orchestra.
As you can see, there’s a lot more to these sea creatures than meets the eye. Perhaps this is why they’ve often been seen throughout history in mythology. Different species are found worldwide, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic and almost everywhere in between.
10 Unique Types Of Octopus Species
The Common Octopus or Octopus Vulgaris is one of the most easily recognized types of octopus in the ocean. However, there are hundreds of different types of octopuses that live in oceans around the world. Although many of them share the same traits and bilateral body make-up, each has specific traits that make it unique.
For instance, most of the common octopus species typically consume their prey by injecting it with venom and breaking it down. However, some species of octopus swallow their prey whole! Some octopus species are large, while others are small enough to fit in your hand. The point is- don’t make the mistake of thinking all octopus species are the same.
Below, we’re going to show you a list of 10 of the most unique types of octopus in the world. If you have a friend who’s as into marine biology as you are, make sure you share this post with them as well.
#1- The Blue-Ringed Octopus
The Blue-Ringed Octopus is a species of octopus that everybody should be aware of.
Why you ask?
Well, for several different reasons.
For one, The Blue-Ringed Octopus is one of the deadliest sea creatures in the ocean. It secretes a highly toxic venom called tetrodotoxin. Tetrodotoxin is very similar to the neurotoxin released by Pufferfish. This venom can kill even the strongest of crustaceans in seconds and can kill a fully-grown human in a matter of minutes.
Each Blue-Ringed Octopus contains enough venom reserves to kill twenty humans. While you should be wary of this small octopus, they don’t usually attack unless provoked. If you ever encounter one while snorkeling in coral reefs, just be sure to give it plenty of space and don’t go poking and prodding it.
You should be aware of the Blue-Ringed Octopus because it’s one of the smallest species of octopus in the ocean. When full-grown, its body only measures 6 to 8-inches in length. This is likely the reason why its venom is so toxic. It’s one of those “small yet deadly” animals that can easily fend for itself when threatened.
Apart from its small size, the Blue-Ringed Octopus is most well known for its iridescent blue rings that line its body. Typically, this species uses a natural camouflage to blend in with the surrounding rocks and coral reefs. When agitated, though, its muscles relax to reveal bright blue rings and give a clear warning- stay away or else…
#2- The Giant Pacific Octopus
The Giant Pacific Octopus is, by far, the largest species of octopus in the sea. It’s native to the northern Pacific’s cold waters and has been found along the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington and off of the coast of Russia and China.
This species prefers deep water and lives in the intertidal zone, below 6,000-feet, where the water is cold and frigid. Its arms are mighty, and each suction cup is able to hold up to 35 pounds. With over 2,200 separate cups along its arms, the Giant Pacific Octopus can crush almost any meal that comes in its path.
The current Guinness World Record for the Pacific Giant Octopus is a specimen that weighed 300-pounds and had an arm span diameter of 32-feet. Others have recorded 600-pound variations of the Pacific Giant Octopus, but many of the claims have not been “verified.”
The most common octopus size for this species is between 30 and 60-pounds. Larger varieties are rare. Then again, who’s to say what’s true and what’s not when humans have only explored 5% of the ocean?
Due to its large size, many Asian countries view the Pacific Giant Octopus as a delicacy. It’s often used to make sushi or create various soup-like dishes.
#3- The East Pacific Red Octopus
Unlike its giant cousin, the East Pacific Red Octopus is fairly small and prefers shallow water where it can blend in with the rocks and coral. Due to its vibrant red color, this octopus gets called the “Ruby Octopus” by many West Coast locals who stumble across it.
Although red is its most commonly identified color, it’s known to shift its shade between various shades of brown, tan, and red, depending on the environment it’s hunting in. When hunting in the shallow water of tidal pools, it can make itself look like a rock to blend in.
It typically measures just 10 to 12-inches in length from arm to arm to arm. It’s a relatively common octopus to find along the shoreline and it likes to make its home in small crevices, cracks, and holes along the rocky beaches of Washington and Oregon. Its camouflage allows it to blend in with the rocks where it can pounce on unsuspecting crabs and other small crustaceans that are unlucky enough to walk by.
One of the coolest facts about the East Pacific Red Octopus is that it’s been recorded to be one of the smartest species of octopuses in the sea! In initial studies, researchers recorded the habits and “attitudes” of a group of these octopuses. To their surprise, they found that each octopus had a different personality.
#4- The Atlantic Pygmy Octopus
The Atlantic Pygmy Octopus is yet another tiny species of octopus. First recorded in 1929 by Guy Robson, little is known about this particular species of octopus. This is mostly due to its limited size. When fully-grown, it only measures 3.5 to 4-inches across, making it about the size of the palm of your hand.
In addition to its size, the Atlantic Pygmy Octopus also likes to hide. It’s rarely been studied outside of laboratory environments, where it behaves quite differently than in the wild. They thrive in the warm, tropical waters of the South Pacific and tend to gravitate towards the muddy substrate, where they can burrow and make caves.
Their favorite food is small hermit crabs and shrimp. Despite their small size, these octopuses are able to mount the shells of their prey and drill through the shell with their sharp tongues. Once the hole is made, they release a venom that quickly kills them so that they can eat their meal. Moral of the story? Don’t let size be an excuse to stop you!
#5- The California Two-Spot Octopus
The CaliforniaTwo-Spot Octopus is most commonly found in warmer waters off the coast of Southern California, Mexico, and South America. They are medium-sized octopuses, measure a few feet in length, and can be found in the intertidal zone around 65 feet underwater before the intercontinental shelf drop-off.
Like most octopuses, they prefer the safety and security of natural rocks and coral reefs. They are rarely ever found in the open ocean. The rocks provide an opportunity for them to feed on crustaceans, mussels, and clams, and they’ll often make a small cave to call home in case any large predators come through the area.
The California Two-Spot Octopus is a common octopus species that is easily identified by its two bright blue, eye-shaped circles on either side of its head, right under the eyes. As with the Blue-Ringed Octopus, these bright blue circlets serve as a warning to any sea creatures (or humans) who get too closed for comfort.
One of the features that make the California Two-Spot Octopus such a deadly hunter is its ability to camouflage itself rapidly. While all cephalopods have this ability, many are limited by the texture of their skin. This octopus has smooth, texture-free skin that can easily blend in with any surrounding environment without looking obtrusive.
#6- The Dumbo Octopus
The Dumbo Octopus is rightly named after the character “Dumbo” from the children’s book about a flying elephant. Although the Dumbo Octopus isn’t an elephant and it certainly can’t fly, the resemblance is spot-on! It has two large fins that extend behind the eyes that resemble an elephant’s large ear, it has a bulky shape like an elephant, and its natural color is grey.
Unlike other octopuses with a similar shape (long arms, bulbous head), the Dumbo Octopus has short, stubby arms. Instead of using its arms to draw prey in, it pounces on top of prey, uses its weight to hold them down, and swallows them whole. Its short tentacles allow it to crawl along the seafloor instead of swimming like most octopuses.
Aside from its eating habits and appearance, a few other differences make Dumbo Octopuses different from your typical intertidal octopus species. For one, it doesn’t use jet propulsion to move. Rather, it uses its large ear-like fins to propel itself in order to save energy. They also don’t have ink sacks, relying solely on their camouflage to keep them safe.
The Dumbo Octopus is one of the deepest-dwelling animals in the sea, and it was only recently discovered. Scientists still know very little about this mysterious creature, and it’s only been observed a few times by deep-sea research teams looking for new life. The deepest it’s been observed so far is 7,000-feet down in the Java Trench by the Indian Ocean, making it one of the only cephalopods to exist that far down.
#7- The Mimic Octopus
The Mimic Octopus is one of the most curious cephalopods in existence. According to National Geographic, they have yet to be properly classified. What makes the Mimic Octopus so interesting is the way that it hunts for prey. It can “mimic” the behaviors and movements of a wide variety of its prey to get close enough to make a kill.
In addition to hunting, it also uses this ability to defend itself. As one of the smaller types of octopus and one that dwells in warmer, more congregated waters, they need it! When large predators approach, the Mimic Octopus quickly shuffles through its repertoire of “disguises” and assumes the shape of a poisonous fish that the predator would want to avoid.
Some of the most common animals that it’s been observed mimicking are the poisonous Lionfish and Flatfish, as well as venomous sea snakes. The predator, seeking to avoid a stomach ache, will usually swim away to find a less complicated meal.
While all octopus species use some form of self-defense, the Mimic Octopus is one of the only animals in the sea that’s been able to mimic others. This ability indicates a level of intelligence that many people didn’t think possible from these shy creatures.
#8- The Seven-Arm Octopus
The Seven-Arm Octopus (Haliphron Atlanticus) is widely known as the second-largest octopus, weighing in just beneath the Giant Pacific Octopus. The average size for Haliphron Atlanticus is 165-pounds with a total length of 11-feet from the tip of its head to the tip of its arms.
Although it’s called the “Seven-Arm Octopus,” it actually has eight arms. The confusion is because males have a short arm that is used for reproductive purposes. Their eighth arm is responsible for fertilizing female egg sacks during mating. However, when they’re observed, this tiny arm is kept close to their body for safety.
The Seven-Arm Octopus is a rare species and isn’t often caught in the wild. The few that have been caught and studied were caught by fishers trawling thousands of feet deep. Like many other deep-sea animals, their elusive behavior has kept them safe from human interference.
#9- The Caribbean Reef Octopus
The Caribbean Reef Octopus is one of the most common varieties of octopus found in the natural and artificial reefs of the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the warm waters of South America. It’s a moderately-sized octopus that typically weighs around 3 to 5-pounds and has arms that are 2 to 3-feet long.
Although the Caribbean Reef Octopus is frequently observed hunting in its natural habitat, not much is known about where they live as they tend to find deep crevices and cracks within the reef to hide in.
Like most other octopus species, the Caribbean Reef Octopus is able to change the color of its skin in seconds to match the surrounding environment. It takes on a dark shade in darker reefs, and in more vibrant reefs, it adopts brighter coloring. Unlike other species, though, this one can change the texture of its skin in order to better blend in with the type of coral around it.
#10- The Coconut Octopus
The Coconut Octopus is found in the South Pacific’s warm waters, where it hunts small crustaceans and tends to enjoy the intertidal zone around coral reefs and rocky outcrops. It has a particularly round head that’s shaped like a coconut. However, this is not where the octopus gets its name from.
Its name comes from the fact that it can use coconut shells to defend itself from predators. In fact, it’s one of the only marine animals that has shown the ability to use tools!
The Coconut Octopus is relatively small. The body typically measures 3-inches across, and the tentacles are rarely longer than 6-inches.
Frequently Asked Questions About Octopus Species
We may not be National Geographic, but hopefully, we were able to introduce you to a couple of new octopus species that you may not have heard about before! Now, let’s take a couple of minutes to address some of the most commonly asked questions regarding our eight-armed friends.
What Is The Most Common Type Of Octopus?
Not to be anticlimactic, but the most common species of octopus is literally called “The Common Octopus.” This medium-sized octopus is found in intertidal zones around the world and is known for its balloon-like webbing between arms, large eyes, and textured skin.
How Many Types Of Octopus Are There?
Generally speaking, octopuses are broken down into two broad categories:
- Deep-sea finned octopuses
- Finless shallow-water octopuses
Deep-sea octopuses tend to be larger and have shorter arms. While some of them use water jet propulsion, it’s also common to see fins that are used for locomotion.
Shallow-water octopuses travel solely with their siphoned jet propulsion systems. They tend to have smaller bodies and long arms that are used to catch the faster-moving prey in intertidal zones.
Are There Different Species Of Octopus?
Yes! Just over 300 different species have been recorded. Most of the species we know are shallow-water varieties. Scientists are only just beginning to explore the deep sea, and we still know very little about deep-sea cephalopods. We could easily discover a new species next month!
How Long Do Octopuses Live For?
Unlike fish and marine mammals, octopuses don’t live very long. They typically only live for two years, at most. During this time, they grow from small coin-sized octopuses into full maturity. If they live long enough, then they’ll reproduce in the safety of a corral reef, rocks, or the seafloor.
Do All Octopus Have 9 Brains?
Yes, all octopuses have nine brains. They need one brain for every one of their arms and a central brain that controls all of their impulses and helps them hunt. Their ability to individually control each arm with a separate brain is one reason they’re the most efficient hunters in the ocean. Just imagine if we had a brain for each one of our limbs! We would be able to multitask like never before.
Can You Keep A Pet Octopus?
Most states don’t have laws against owning an octopus as a pet. However, they’re not necessarily the best choice of pet. They’re incredibly intelligent predators, and they don’t do well in confined spaces. A bored octopus in captivity is a recipe for disaster.
They have been known to intentionally break things (including critical water filters) in their tanks just because they don’t have anything else to do. They also need to hunt, so unless you can provide them with a steady supply of live crustaceans, it’s complicated to feed them.
Last but not least, octopuses like to move around. While they can do well in large aquariums with artificial reefs, they’re not going to last long in a small household fish tank.
How Long Have Octopuses Been Around?
The oldest fossil of an octopus dates back 500 million years ago, meaning that they were alive before the dinosaurs! However, back in those days, they had a protective shell, much like a hermit crab. Fossils showing octopuses without shells started to appear, dating back 140 million years ago in the Jurassic Period.
How Do Octopuses Fit Through Small Spaces?
All octopuses possess the ability to morph their body parts into almost any different shape. A large octopus can fit through an incredibly tiny hole or crack. This is possibly their greatest defense mechanism and allows them to hide from predators in locations where no other animal could harm them.
If you have a friend who’s as into marine biology as you are, make sure to check our article about “Different types of Jellyfish” and share this post with them as well.