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Beware the Blue-Ringed Octopus!

This octopus is one of the most venomous creatures on Earth!

One of my favorite things about being out of school for the summer is that when something catches my interest, I actually have time to stop, do a little research, and learn something new. Not only does it satisfy my wild craving for all things biological, but it adds to the plethora of factoids and interesting tidbits that I can use to stimulate my students next school year. Nothing is more exciting to me than getting a kid excited about science!!

In the early morning silence of my house (another summertime favorite!) and with coffee in hand, I headed to my deck with my laptop to peruse the science news sites that I love.  I ran across a small blurb about this octopus that really caught my attention.  My best friend, Google, and I quickly came up with this list of facts about the blue-ringed octopus:

  • The blue-ringed octopuses are recognized as one of the world's most venomous marine creatures.
  • They are small in size, ranging from 5 to 8 inches.
  • Their venom is powerful enough to kill a human.  There is no blue-ringed octopus antivenom available.
  • They are found in tide pools and coral reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, from Japan to Australia.
  • They are recognized by their characteristic blue and black rings and yellowish skin.
  • When the octopus is agitated, the skin darkens and the rings may appear to pulsate.  

  • The octopus hides in crevices and can squeeze into spaces much smaller than itself.  It uses the pigment cells called chromatophores to camouflage itself.
  • The venom contains a neurotoxin that blocks sodium channels, causing motor paralysis and respiratory arrest within minutes of being bitten.
  • This toxin is produced by bacteria that live in the salivary glands of the octopus.
  • Treatment involves artificial respiration once the victim's respiratory muscles have become paralyzed.  The paralysis is temporary and will pass over several hours as the toxin is metabolized and excreted from the body, but it is essential that rescue breathing continues until the victim is able to breathe on their own.
  • The octopus is very shy and docile.  It prefers to stay hidden and comes out to hunt small crabs and shrimps.
  • There are three confirmed species, and a fourth is still being considered.
  • The female blue-ringed octopus will lay only one clutch of about 50 eggs during her lifetime.  The eggs are incubated under her arms for about 6 months, during which time she will not eat.  When the eggs hatch, the female dies.
Want to know more?  Here is a really good YouTube video.  The footage is very good and it is just 3 minutes in length....perfect for a grabber at the beginning of your biology class.

Happy Teaching!

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