Scuba Diving Photos
Encounters: Eight-Legged Freaks!
Heron Island, Australia
Few animals have the ability to flash neon lights; the blue-ringed octopus does when it’s angry. The peacock-blue circles that distinguish these four species also defend them, serving as a warning to potential predators who mistake the marks as eyes.Perhaps the deadliest critter in the sea, the blue-ring packs a neurotoxin punch “far more poisonous than cyanide,” warns Dr. Lydia Mathger, who has been studying mollusks for 12 years. The venom, which “can easily kill 30 people,” is spread through a bite or a rub against the skin. There is no antidote. The octopus’ Herculean defense enables the blue-ring to enjoy a relatively leisurely lifestyle. The species rarely dashes out of shells and other hiding places, making it hard to spot. Mathger recommends heading to the shallows to find them: Overturn shells and peer into crevices. Most important, remember that thick neoprene gloves are a must.
>WHEN TO GO Year-round
>OPERATORS The Heron Island Marine Center at Heron Island Resort (heronisland.com) offers daily, guided dive trips from three fully equipped dive boats.
>PRICE TAG Boat dives cost $66. A three night, dive-inclusive stay starts at $497 per night, and includes five dives a day and three meals a day for two people.
Due to their keen camouflage tricks and seeming ability to outsmart us, octopuses fascinate divers. The hunt is only the beginning: We scan reef and rubble for tentacles and shell piles, occasionally rewarded with an opportunity to discover this animal’s reactions. Will we be deceived, or do we give octopuses too much credit? After all, points out Dr. Roland Anderson, a retired Seattle Aquarium biologist, “How smart can a cousin of the clam be?”
FIVE OCTO FACTS
1 Giant Pacific octopuses, which grow to eight feet in length and weigh 100 pounds, can wiggle their bodies through a baseball-size opening.
2 Octopuses can be trained visually to run mazes, even making detours when a new food source appears.
3 Every inch of an octopus’ skin tastes what it touches.
4 Octopuses quickly learn to recognize individuals. At the New England Aquarium, a giant Pacific octopus named Truman took a dislike to a female volunteer, using his siphon to squirt a stream of water at her each time she entered the room.
5 Germans rallied behind Paul the Octopus each time he predicted a win for the national team during the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but when he chose Spain as the victors, livid fans hungered for sushi justice.