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Octopus Facts | The Aquarium-Hopping Myth Unmasked

Fun octopus facts

We love learning about the sea creatures on Glover’s Reef, Belize. Especially, the truly odd or fun facts about them, of which there are many. And of all the creatures we encounter, the octopus has to be near the top of the list for just plain oddness. So it’s natural that, when we heard this particular story, we just had to hunt down the truth and find out if they were the stuff of octopus myth or octopus facts.

octopus factsWe’ve had many a physical encounter with octopuses while snorkeling off Long Caye (see photo above). We often see the Common Octopus and the Caribbean Reef Octopus. Both are hunters and have their interesting habits. But when Lucy kept hearing this story about a particularly adventurous octopus (or several different ones) she really wanted to find out if it was true. Unfortunately, she was busy at the time, so the mystery languished until recently when she finally had time to do a little research on octopus facts.

The aquarium-hopping myth

The story she heard many times in different versions had an octopus living in at a large aquarium (think Sea World) or a simple tank at home, or maybe in the wild – the stories varied. But the gist of all the stories was that the octopus climbed up and out of wherever it was living, managed to transport itself to a stash of tasty fish or shellfish in a tank nearby, grabbed them, ate them, and returned to its original abode.

Lucy suspected it might be the stuff of urban legend so, as all good internet sleuths do, she immediately went to snopes.com. But surprisingly, snopes apparently had no official posting on the subject. Happily, however, they did have a thread on it in their user forum.

The octopus facts

In the 2005 thread, “Octopus escapes from tank to prowl on its neighborsposter Iustinus said he’d heard a story about an aquarium where fish kept disappearing from one particular tank. “The staff put up cameras to find out what was going on, and discovered that an octopus was climbing out of its tank, eating the fish, then crawling back to its own tank,” he said. Problem was, Iustinus couldn’t recall exactly where he’d heard this, and searching Google revealed that versions of this story were plentiful but they all varied and few cited any sources. He wanted to know what others had heard.

Ten people replied, most reporting that they too had heard versions of the story. One had heard it from co-workers while employed at an aquarium in La Jolla, CA. Others had seen a Discovery Channel video in which an employee of a Tennessee aquarium reported that it had happened there. Another person wrote “Heh – it *happened* at our local aquarium, too!” though they neglected to say where they lived.

As all truly great legends do, this one seems to have numerous believable origins, none of which can be sourced or verified. Octopus facts or fiction? We’ll leave it for you to decide.