Octopus's Garden

A Caribbean reef octopus got the memo during Cephalopod week in mid-June and appeared along our shoreline. From the dock above, I observed it several times for long periods as it enthusiastically explored the rocks and sea grass each evening.

In early June, I witnessed a much larger octopus scooting across the bottom foraging and then settling to stretch a thin bright blue webbed skirt over its discovery. Research shows this is called a parachute attack, used by the Caribbean reef octopus to form a canopy over its prey with its webbed arms. This intelligent species is common in the Keys and in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean but rarely seen as they are nocturnal.

The octopus (exhibiting a parachute attack, above) made its way into a piece of art I was working on then. I call it Octopus's Garden, and you can see it here on my website by clicking the link at the bottom of the page. In Key West it's at Art@830 Gallery, on Caroline Street.

Side note: Another very cool sighting during the winter months happened when we pulled the swim ladder out of the water to clean it.  A tiny 1" transparent octopus inched its way off the ladder and across the dock, pulling itself onto my thumb with one of its sucker-lined arms. Instinctively, I shook my hand out over the water lightly. The octopus dropped into the sea and let out 3 tiny puffs of ink before disappearing!

I later read that octopus studied in the Florida Keys laid eggs in January, and after 2-3 months, tiny hatchlings emerge who can use jet propulsion, crawl, and eject ink. They develop quickly and, within about 4-5 months, are 75% of their full size. That would put the octopus who visited recently right on schedule. Could it have been the same little octopus who attached itself to my thumb that day?