Think that if you’ve seen one octopus, you’ve seen them all? Think again. Multiple personalities in mushy mollusks! Few people would think to look for personality differences in snails or oysters . . .
But their close relative the octopus seems to express a variety of character traits, just as dogs, birds and people do. Scientists working with red octopuses in captivity have identified at least three personality types. In personality studies completed at Puget Sound, the paranoid type of octopus startled easily. This type squirted ink and fled at the tiniest provocation. They avoided feeding on crabs until night, when they could eat in relative seclusion.
In other experiments, the agressive type of octopus rushed to the door of its tank when researchers opened it. These octopuses grabbed objects out of people’s hands and immediately devoured crabs that were dropped in their tanks.
And finally there are passive octopuses. They lurk in corners, shrink away from attention, and let crabs run close to them before striking. Seattle aquarium curator Roland Anderson thinks that octopus personalities developed to help the creatures adapt and survive. Since their eggs float around before they hatch, they might end up hatching in a variety of environments — each demanding a different disposition.
More to check:
- Mather, J.A. and R.C. Anderson. 1993. Personalities of octopuses (Octopus rubescens). J. Comp. Psych. 107(3):336-340.
- Sinn, D.L., Perrin, N.A., Mather, J.A., & Anderson, R.C. (2001). Early temperamental traits in an octopus (Octopus bimaculoides). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 115(4).
- The many quirks and wonders of octopuses have captured human imaginations for decades. This poem dates back to 1873.
- The Straying Topus by Tom Hood
- Have you heard of the Octopus – “Topus of the feelers eight – How he left his tank o’po’pus Lumpfish to disintegrate
- To the lumpfish tank as sprightly As the Brighton coach he’d ride; For two passengers he nightly Found convenient room inside.
- But it happened Mr. Lawler, Whom the lumpfish ought to thank, Caught this very early caller, “Dropt-in” on his neighbor’s tank.
- For some weeks the world lumpfishious Very strangely vanished had; So the visit was suspicious, And appearances were bad!
- Well for him, this brigand larky Was not brought before J.P. (Neither clergy, nor squire-archy) But to Mr. Henry Lee.
- Said he, “Punish on suspicion, Is a thing I never will – Catch him in the same position; Then I’ll send him to the Mill!”
- Treadmill is a wear-and-tear case, And Octopus would you see, Do four men upon a staircase – Law, how tired the beast would be!