Seattle’s Loch Ness: Giant Pacific Octopus

February 22nd, 2011

It is Octopus Week in Seattle and thus an appropriate moment to consider what lurks beneath the murky and chilly waters along the city’s western edge.  No mythic Loch Ness Monster to arouse anxiety about entering the water but just the world’s largest invertebrate, the Giant Pacific Octopus, roaming the depths.  Its turns out that the marine ecology of Puget Sound offers a hospitable environment for this species.

Octopus Week is not by happenstance.  In recent years on the President’s Day holiday weekend, the Seattle Aquarium biologists enlist the area’s diving community to do an octopus census in various Puget Sound locales.

“People” friends of the Sound’s resident orca  population often contend that the orca has smarts enough to know when to put on a  show for paying viewers on a whale watching excursion. In this vein the Aquarium’s proclamation of Octopus Week may be an annual effort to encourage a visit to the Aquarium by publicizing the perceived personality and intelligence of yet another amazing sea creature.

Octopuses, too, appear to have their favorite living places.  And one of those places is under the pier pilings of the Seattle Aquarium. From on-going observation, the marine biologists seem to believe they can detect some personality in these invertebrates.  But no matter how “humanistic” the terms used to describe this creature, I am not much inclined “to go under” to get-up close and personal with the Giant Pacific Octopus with its eight arms and 1500 suckers and a “peripheral” brain such that if one of its arms is severed the cut arm just crawls away.

I’ll stick to viewing the Giant Pacific Octopus in an enclosed tank which remains to this day my lasting impression from a past visit to the Seattle Aquarium.

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