Overview

Comprehensive Description

Biology/Natural History: The 3rd right arm of the male of this species has a large hectocotylus, about 1/5 the length of the arm (photo). The hectocotylus is used in transferring the male's spermatophore, or package of sperm, which may be up to a meter long, to the female. The hectocotylus may be left within the mantle of the female during the process. Eggs, which look like small whitish grapes, are laid throughout the year but mainly in the winter. When the female has eggs she attaches them to the roof of a cave and guards them until they hatch (5-7 months). She may lay 35,000 to 70,000 eggs in a single clutch. Hatching is mainly in early spring, and the young are pelagic for one to several months before settling. The young are sometime seen swimming near the surface. Lifespan is thought to be 4-5 years. Prey include crustaceans (shrimp and crabs), mollusks (scallops, clams, abalones, moon snails, small octopus), and fish (rockfish, flatfish, sculpins). The octopus are often captured in crab traps, where they are trying (successfully) to steal the crabs. Females can be cannibalistic. The Seattle Aquarium recently observed an octopus catching the spiny dogfish Squalus acanthias, and in 2005 we found the picked-clean skeleton of a dogfish on the shellheap outside an octopus den (photo). The species accumulates a large pile of shells and crab carapaces outside the den, which is usually under a boulder or in a rocky crevice. They quickly kill crabs by rasping a tiny hole (1 mm or less in diameter) through the carapace (photo), probably with their radula, then presumably injecting poison, perhaps with their beak. Several species may be attracted to their shell pile (midden), including Pycnopodia helianthoides and the snail Amphissa columbiana. Predators include seals, sea otters, dogfish sharks, lingcod, and man. Parasites include the mesozoans Dicyemenna abreida and Conocyema deca, which live in the kidney.

This octopus is said to be capable of inflicting a painful bite but I have never seen anyone bitten, even when wrestling them off the rocks. They seem much less ready to bite than is O. rubescens.

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The skin of this octopus is not smooth; instead it has extensive skin folds and large, truncate papillae. Color often some shade of dark red or reddish brown but can change color rapidly (for example to a light mottled greenish). May have white spots on the dorsal mantle and on the arm web in front of the eyes, but no "eyespots" as are seen on O. bimaculatus farther south. May grow very large, with a mantle length over 20 cm, body weight to 272 kg, and arm spread to 9 m. This is the world's largest known octopus.
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Distribution

Giant Pacific octopuses, Enteroctopus dofleini, are found throughout the Pacific Ocean. They have been documented as far north as the Alaskan Aleutian Islands and as far south as the Baja California region of Mexico. This species ranges as far northeast as Japan.

Biogeographic Regions: pacific ocean (Native )

  • Scheel, D. 2002. Characteristics of habitats used by Enteroctopus dofleini in Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet, Alaska. Marine Ecology, 23/5: 185-206.
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Geographical Range: Bering Sea to California; Northern Asia, Japan (and presumably Hong Kong)

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Physical Description

Morphology

Giant Pacific octopuses are larger than any other species of octopus. Specimens have weighed as much as 272 kg and measured 9.6 m in radius. However, most reach an average weight of 60 kg with a dorsal mantle length of 50 to 60 cm. Giant Pacific octopuses are usually reddish in color but are able to change color and texture when threatened or for camouflage. The dorsal mantle is shaped like a sack and contains the brain, reproductive organs, digestive organs, and eyes. Giant Pacific octopuses have two eyes, one on each side of their head, which provide extremely acute vision. Giant Pacific octopuses also have four pairs of arms that extend from the mantle. Each pair is covered with up to 280 suckers, which contain thousands of chemical receptors.

Average mass: 60 kg.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

  • Anderson, R., J. Wood, R. Byrne. 2002. Octopus senescence: the beginning of the end. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 5/4: 275-283.
  • Schwab, I. 1987. A well armed predator. British Journal of Ophthalmology, 87/7: 812.
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Type Information

Holotype for Polypus gilbertianus Berry, 1912
Catalog Number: USNM 214320
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Invertebrate Zoology
Sex/Stage: male;
Preparation: Isopropyl Alcohol
Year Collected: 1903
Locality: Behm Canal, Naha Bay, Indian Point N 18 Deg. E, 0.9 Mile, Alaska, United States, Gulf of Alaska, North Pacific Ocean
Depth (m): 75 to 245
Vessel: Albatross R/V
  • Holotype: Berry, S. 1912. Bull. Bur. Fish., Wash. 30(1910): 284-286, pls. 35-37.
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Look Alikes

How to Distinguish from Similar Species: Octopus rubescens is smaller, with mantle length less than 10 cm and weight less than 200 g; its skin has small, pointed papillae but not the large skin folds found on O. dofleini.
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Ecology

Habitat

Giant Pacific octopuses are generally found in tidal pools and up to depths of 110 m, although they can also reside in deeper waters of up to 1,500 m. They often live in dens or lairs, under boulders, and in rock crevices. Ideal habitat for this species includes a soft substrate of mud, sand or gravel that includes large boulders for creating dens. Giant Pacific octopuses are found in greater densities near dense kelp fields. Members of this species are ectothermic, and their metabolism is dependent upon water temperature. Optimal water temperatures for giant Pacific octopuses range between 7 and 9.5 degrees Celsius.

Range depth: 0 to 1500 m.

Habitat Regions: saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: benthic ; coastal

  • Scheel, D., A. Lauster, T. Vincent. 2007. Habitat ecology on Enteroctopus dofleini from middens and live prey surveys in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Pp. 434-458 in N Landman, R Davis, R Mapes, eds. Cephalopods Present and Past: New Insights and Fresh Perspectives. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.
  • Wildscreen. 2010. "North Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini)" (On-line). ARKive: Images of Life on Earth. Accessed February 02, 2011 at http://www.arkive.org/north-pacific-giant-octopus/enteroctopus-dofleini/#text=All.
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coastal to shelf
  • UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms
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Depth range based on 150 specimens in 2 taxa.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 46 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 799
  Temperature range (°C): 2.304 - 11.845
  Nitrate (umol/L): 5.774 - 43.616
  Salinity (PPS): 31.893 - 34.331
  Oxygen (ml/l): 0.303 - 6.561
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.883 - 3.284
  Silicate (umol/l): 10.574 - 102.211

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 799

Temperature range (°C): 2.304 - 11.845

Nitrate (umol/L): 5.774 - 43.616

Salinity (PPS): 31.893 - 34.331

Oxygen (ml/l): 0.303 - 6.561

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.883 - 3.284

Silicate (umol/l): 10.574 - 102.211
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Depth Range: Intertidal to 100 (180) m

Habitat: Primarily rocky subtidal; occasionally low intertidal or on sand

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Trophic Strategy

Giant Pacific octopuses are considered generalist foragers. They return to their den in order to consume their prey, and they deposit the prey's remains at the entrance of their den. This collection of skeletal remains is known as a middens. Examination of middens indicates that the diet of giant Pacific octopuses is primarily composed of clams, crabs, fish, and squid. Giant Pacific octopuses are visual hunters that utilize a variety of hunting strategies including stalking, chasing, and camouflaging themselves in order to ambush prey. They possesses a well-developed sense of vision, allowing them to coordinate the use of all eight arms to attack their victim. Members of this species also use different methods to prepare meals for consumption. One method includes pulling the protective shell apart in order to reach the meat contained inside. Another method involves crushing prey with their strong beak located in the center of its appendages. The most common method of obtaining food, however, involves drilling a hole in the prey's shell, in which an octopus injects its toxic saliva.

Animal Foods: fish; mollusks; aquatic crustaceans

Primary Diet: carnivore (Molluscivore )

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Associations

Giant Pacific octopuses do not specialize on any one particular species of prey and are not the main source of food for any particular predator. They do, however, serve as host to some dicyemid mesozoans. Dicyemennea nouveli is a large, conical-shaped species that reaches up to 12,000 um in length. Dicyemennea nouveli inserts the pointed anterior end of its body into the folds of the renal appendages of giant Pacific octopuses. Other members of g. Dicyemennea are also found in shallow-water cephalopods.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Furuya, H. 2008. Redescription of Dicyemennea nouveli (Phylum: Dicyemida) from Enteroctopus dofleini (Mollusca: Cephalopoda: Octopoda). The Journal of Parasitology, 94/5: 1064-1070.
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Giant Pacific octopuses avoid predation by remaining in a protective den, camouflaging itself, or hiding among kelp. Although juveniles are eaten by a variety marine life, adult giant Pacific octopuses have few predators other than humans, which have hunted this species to use as food and as bait for Pacific halibut. Giant Pacific octopuses are known for their ability to release an ink cloud, although they rarely do so as a direct form of defense. Instead, they tend to fight off predators with their arms. Once released, they use their propulsion abilities to jet away. As giant Pacific octopuses escape, they then expel a cloud of ink as a screen, allowing them to seek safe refuge.

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Each pair of arms of giant Pacific octopuses has up to 280 suckers, which have thousands of chemical receptors. These provide an acute sense of touch and taste, which this species use to help detect prey. Typically calm animals, giant Pacific octopuses are unusually adept at navigating by using landmarks in the wild and at adapting objects as tools. They are the only invertebrate known to use their well-developed vision to learn through observation. Giant Pacific octopuses are considered extremely intelligent, partially do to their larger-than-average brain-to-body weight ratio. Individuals in captivity are known for having having unique temperaments and personalities, ranging from playful to destructive. Their high level of intelligence and desire to interact with human caretakers have earned captive members of this spices a reputation as notorious escape artists.

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

  • Mather, J. 2008. Cephalopod consciousness: behavioural evidence. Conciousness and Cognition, 17/1: 37-48.
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Life Cycle

The lifespan of giant Pacific octopuses is characterized by a fast growth period that continues throughout its entire life of 4 to 5 years. Larvae hatch from a cluster of eggs and are on average 9.5 to 10.1 mm in length. The larvae, with limited swimming ability, move to the surface to begin a planktonic existence that lasts 1 to 3 months. At the end of the planktonic stage, juveniles descend to the benthos where they undergo rapid growth. Giant Pacific octopuses continue to grow until they reproduce. Within 3 months of breeding, males normally undergo a period of senescence and die. Symptoms of senescence in this species include reduced food intake, retraction of skin around the eyes, aimless movement (wandering) and lesions that do not heal. Females that survive brooding undergo a similar period of senescence and die within weeks of the eggs hatching.

  • Kubodera, T. 1991. Distribution and abundance of the early stages of octopus, Octopus dofleini wulker, 1910 in the north Pacific. Bulletin of Marine Science, 49: 235-243.
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Life Expectancy

Giant Pacific octopuses on average live 4.5 to 5 years in the wild. A similar lifespan has been observed for members this species held in public aquariums.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
4.5 to 5 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
4.5 to 5 years.

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Reproduction

Male reproductive organs of great Pacific octopuses are enclosed inside the mantle cavity within a genital bag. Spermatozoa are encapsulated in a spindle-shaped spermatophoric sac. Males utilizes a hectocotylized arm, a specialized tentacle used for the transfer of sperm, to insert the two spermatophores (each 1 m in length) into an oviduct located in the mantle of the female. The balloon part of the spermatophore remains inside the oviduct while the remainder of the sac hangs from the female. Eventually, the sac bursts and releases millions of spermatozoa. The entire mating process takes 2 to 3 hours. Giant Pacific octopuses are polygynous.

Mating System: polygynous

Giant Pacific octopuses breed throughout the year, though spawning peaks in winter. Males may breed with several females, but females mate only once in their lifetime. Over several days, females lay 20,000 to 100,000 rice-shaped eggs (avg. 50,000) in grape-like clusters of 200 to 300 eggs each. These clusters are hung from the ceiling of the den. Females remain with the eggs throughout the entire brooding period, guarding them from predators and using her syphon to aerate and clean the clusters. Hatching can take anywhere from 150 days to almost 1 year depending on water temperature. Cooler temperatures delay the development of the embryo and therefore lengthen incubation time.

Breeding interval: Male giant Pacific octopuses may breed with several females once reaching maturity, but females mate only once in their lifetime.

Breeding season: Giant Pacific octopuses breed year-round.

Range number of offspring: 20,000 to 100,000.

Average number of offspring: 50,000.

Average time to independence: 0 minutes.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 to 5 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 to 5 years.

Key Reproductive Features: semelparous ; year-round breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); broadcast (group) spawning; oviparous

Female giant Pacific octopuses remain with their eggs throughout the entire brooding period, guarding them from predators and using their syphon to aerate and clean the clusters. Females do not leave the den during this period, not even to eat. Females die during the brooding period or shortly thereafter, and males die within three months of breeding. Therefore, there is no post-hatching parental investment evident in giant Pacific octopuses.

Parental Investment: pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Anderson, R., J. Wood, R. Byrne. 2002. Octopus senescence: the beginning of the end. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 5/4: 275-283.
  • High, W. 1976. The giant Pacific octopus. Marine Fisheries Review, 38/9: 17-22.
  • Kubodera, T. 1991. Distribution and abundance of the early stages of octopus, Octopus dofleini wulker, 1910 in the north Pacific. Bulletin of Marine Science, 49: 235-243.
  • Wildscreen. 2010. "North Pacific giant octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini)" (On-line). ARKive: Images of Life on Earth. Accessed February 02, 2011 at http://www.arkive.org/north-pacific-giant-octopus/enteroctopus-dofleini/#text=All.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Enteroctopus dofleini

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ACATTATATTTTATTTTTGGAATTTGATCAGGTTTACTAGGTACATCATTA---AGATTAATAATTCGAACAGAACTAGGACAACCTGGATCTTTACTAAATGAT---GATCAACTTTATAACGTTATTGTTACTGCCCACGCTTTTGTAATAATTTTCTTTTTAGTTATACCCGTAATAATTGGAGGATTTGGAAACTGATTAGTCCCTTTAATA---TTAGGAGCTCCAGATATAGCATTCCCACGAATAAACAATATAAGATTTTGATTACTTCCCCCCTCTTTAACTCTCCTATTAACTTCAGCAGCAGTAGAAAGAGGAGCAGGAACAGGTTGAACTGTATACCCTCCATTATCTAGAAATTTAGCCCATATAGGTCCTTCTGTAGATCTA---GCAATTTTTTCCCTTCATTTAGCAGGTATTTCCTCTATTTTAGGAGCTATTAATTTCATCACAACTATTATTAATATACGATGAGAAGGGATACAAATAGAACGTCTTCCACTATTTGTATGATCTGTTCTAATTACAGCAGTTCTTCTTCTACTATCTTTACCAGTATTAGCAGGT---GCCATTACTATACTTCTTACTGATCGTAACTTCAATACAACTTTTTTTGACCCAAGAGGAGGAGGAGATCCTATTCTATATCAACATTTA------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------TTT
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Enteroctopus dofleini

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 182
Specimens with Barcodes: 183
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Giant Pacific octopuses are not considered at risk by the IUCN Red List, CITES, or the US Federal List of Endangered Species. Although this spices is commercially fished in some areas, this does not appear to be greatly affecting population sizes.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no known adverse effects of giant Pacific octopuses on humans.

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Giant Pacific octopuses were commonly used as bait for Pacific halibut during the late 1950s and 1960s, though this is no longer a common practice. In some ares, this species is commercially fished and is eaten in some countries in the Pacific.

Positive Impacts: food

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