The Smithsonian Has a New Baby Giant Octopus and You Can Watch It Online
Octopuses being natural and sometimes mischievous explorers, they're a whole lot of fun to watch and a whole lot of work to research. Visitors and keepers at Washington DC's National Zoo will now have the opportunity to do both on a huge scale, as the park welcomes a giant Pacific octopus to its collection of animals. The baby enteroctopus dofleini has already joined a bevy of other species at the park's Invertebrate Exhibit, and can be seen daily.
The two and a half year old is still thoroughly tiny, weighing in at a petite three pounds. Over the next few years, it will grow to up to 13 times its current size, until it maxes out at around 400 pounds. Females, which grow larger than males, can reach arm spans of more than 14 feet. Each individual arm has 280 suckers and can get up to six feet long. At full size, the giant octopus switches from its conventional diet - crabs, small fish, and so on - and begins to feast on pirate ships and the black souls of eternally damned sailors. That's a fact. You can look it up.
For all the well-justified criticism that the National Zoo has taken over the last decade, their education people know how to set up displays. They use large, attention-getting animals to lure visitors into exhibits that emphasize nature's overall and much more subtle diversity. The promise of monkeys gets people into the Amazon exhibit, where there are a myriad of smaller species. In a broader sense, pandas draw people into zoos in the first place. And in this case, a baby giant octopus will bring visitors into an exhibit filled with coral, anemones, blue crabs, a bird-eating tarantula, cuttlefish, and ctenophores. Awww! Ctenophores!
Entrance to the National Zoo is free, making it one of the few times we'll use the phrase "your tax dollars at work" unsarcastically. The park is open every day of the year except Christmas. While you're planning your visit, you can check out the new baby's growth on the Octopus Cam that zookeepers have set up.
[Photo: NOAA - R. N. Lea / Wiki Commons]
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