MonsterQuest: Giant Octopus
Giant Octopus "Lusca"
Octopi are known to be relatively intelligent animals, and are able to change both the color and texture of their skin to camouflage themselves from predators. They are nocturnal feeders, and will kill and eat almost anything available, including small sharks. Their personalities vary from docile to very aggressive, and they have been known to attack each other.
Deep, dark ocean waters make an ideal habitat for the giant octopus, or Octopus Giganteus. Sightings of the creature that fishermen dubbed the "Lusca" have been reported around the deep craters in the ocean floor near Andros, the largest island of the Bahamas. Washington State's Puget Sound, where the bottom can drop off by 700 feet or more, also makes a comfortable home for giant octopi.
Octopus Giganteus has been described as a creature with an arm span of up to 200 feet, some 15-20 times that of the largest known species of octopus, the Giant Pacific Octopus. Like octopi, it is assumed to be boneless, with a body completely made of muscle. As the beak of the Giant Pacific Octopus measures two to three inches in diameter, the giant octopus may have a beak 15 times larger, or some four feet in diameter.
The Giant Pacific Octopus, native to Puget Sound, is the largest known species of octopus. It averages five to six feet in length, with an arm span of some 10 to 12 feet. Another feared sea creature is the giant squid, a member--like the octopus--of the cephalopod class of the phylum mollusca. In late December 2006, Japanese researchers captured a 24-foot-long giant squid off the coast of the Ogasawara Islands south of Tokyo; the animal died during capture, but not before the researchers captured the first-ever footage of a living giant squid. The largest squid on record measured some 60 feet long.
Sightings of enormous octopus-like creatures go back as long as sailors have traveled the seas. Homer's Odyssey, written around 650 B.C., tells of Skylla, a rock-dwelling sea monster that preyed on passing ships. In 1896, a giant mass was found washed ashore at St. Augustine, Florida. The country's top octopus expert pronounced it part of a giant octopus that he named after himself --"Octopus Giganteus Verrill"-- before later concluding that it was just decomposed sperm whale blubber. Others still dispute this finding, claiming the mass was part of a giant octopus carcass.
MOST RECENT SIGHTING
Similar masses to the one at St. Augustine washed up in Nantucket in 1996 and, even more recently, off the coast of Los Muermos, Chile (683 miles south of Santiago) in 2003. Local researchers in Chile found no bones within the mass of tissue, which weighed some 13 tons; they later found evidence proving that it was in fact whale blubber.
MonsterQuest: Giant Octopus
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