What's for Dinner?  

    The giant Pacific octopus is heterotrophic carnivore. The octopus feeds upon a wide variety of sea creatures. Snails, shellfish, clams, crabs, scallops, lobsters and shrimp are among the more common octopus meals. They have also been known to feed on birds, sharks, and small fish.
    Enteroctopus dofleini uses many of its adaptations to capture prey. The octopus’s siphon is used to uncover shelled prey on the ocean floor. Water is ejected from the siphon to blow away sand and gravel, which leaves food sources exposed for consumption. The suckers on each of its eight arms are used to hold on to the prey. Suckers are also very sensitive and individually experience touch and taste sensations. Each arm is very strong. The octopus uses them, combined with the suckers, to pry the prey’s shells apart or to snatch and hold the creature in place. Since octopuses frequently feed during the night, they frequently use these features to feel along the ocean floor for their prey. The arms also transfer the food up to the octopus's mouth.

Octopus Drillhole Image used with permission. 3/30/12 Image found at http://rosario.wallawalla.edu/invertsThis is a photo of a shell's hole which was drilled by an octopus. Permission received from Sun Moon at www.flickr.com

    The Pacific octopus uses its horny beak to crack and crush the shells, or exoskeletons, of some of its food sources. Shells can be found with a small hole drilled in them. (See photos above.)  The octopus creates these holes using its salivary papilla, a drill-like mouth structure, to bore into the bivalve’s inner cavity. After the hole is drilled, the octopus then pushes saliva, which contains venom, into the shell. This venom further corrodes the shell and weakens the prey. The octopus's tongue-like radula is also used to scrape up food morsels.
    To capture the more difficult animals, the octopus uses its most important adaptation: its intelligence. The giant Pacific octopus will hide under a rock and use its chromatophores to blend in to the surroundings. It will then patiently wait for its prey. When a creature passes by, it will reach out a strong arm and snatch up the creature, dead in its tracks. This is the technique the octopus uses to attack a large dogfish shark in this video. Some octopuses have also been seen hiding near docks and capturing birds as they fly past.
    After it has captured its prey, the octopus will usually take it back to its den to consume it. This is why many dens have piles of empty shells littered about outside of the entrance.
    This photo depicts a giant Pacific octopus consuming a crab. It is used with permission from Andy Murch and can be found at http://elasmodiver.com/Giant_Pacific_Octopus_Pictures.htm

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 Julie Kalupa of University of Wisconsin - La Crosse.  BIO 203 - Spring 2012