Last week I returned to the Biomes Marine Biology Center in Rhode Island to see this new addition for myself. Opal is
(UPDATE: December 4, 2012 - Opal has grown big enough to be identified as a Caribbean reef octopus, which is rarely found in New England waters. He was probably carried north on the Gulf Stream and would not have survived the East Coast winter.)
But little opal was found—amazingly, because he was the size of a dime at that point— and suddenly Mark had an early replacement for Coral, who had passed away on July 16th. Coral was one of this year's two octopuses on display at Biomes, the other being Peach (I wrote about them back on July 3rd, in this post). As of last week, Peach was still hanging in there, quite at the end of her lifespan. I plan to feature her in another post soon.
According to Mark, Opal was probably around 2 weeks old when he was found, and it is not easy to determine the gender of the Atlantic octopus species until the end of their life. But Mark has a sixth sense about them, and usually just knows if he has acquired a "he" or a "she" — but as we can see by the name selection, it really doesn't matter.
When I met Opal last week, I saw that he had grown to be about the size of a quarter (to you international folks, that is a U.S. 25-cent piece, and coincidentally approximately 25mm in diameter).
OK, are you ready?
Introducing...Opal the Magnificent!
|Opal the Atlantic Octopus at the Biomes Center in Rhode Island|
Yes, there he is, that tiny crimson blob in the back corner of his tank. (Don't worry, close-up photos are next.)
Mark has to feed Opal because the octopus doesn't know how to hunt in this tank. Those two little transparent white marks above Opal in that first photo are little shrimp that share the tank. Normally these are prey, and when I showed up, I witnessed them playing a game of "catch me if you can" with Opal. I saw that the shrimp and Opal were eyeballing each other, and Opal would occasionally make a dash toward the shrimp, but the shrimp always won, escaping with lightning speed.
|I think I'll just rest my mantle on this rock.|
Eventually, the parties tired of their game, and Opal did a little strolling on his rock and around the pebble bottom of the tank.
|It looks like I'm walking, but I'm really not.|
Octopuses propel themselves by using a funnel, a part of their body that siphons water from their gills, through and out the funnel forcibly, creating a sort of water jet.
Opal meandered around, giving me ample opportunity to take pictures.
I wonder what the little guy was thinking. I know he wasn't feeling threatened, or else he would have made an ink cloud and escaped to another corner. I wish I could have seen him make an ink cloud, though.
In the center of the tank is a fake plant. I was happy that Opal did a little investigating there, so I could see him spread out his beautiful tentacles. I wonder what it would feel like to hold such a small octopus?
As I mentioned earlier, Mark has to feed Opal frozen crab, but here is a video from September 6th that Mark posted, showing how he is teaching Opal to hunt. You can see those transparent shrimp moving about in the tank, as well as Opal using his "jet propulsion" and using his suction cups on the sides of the glass tank. Enjoy!
If you noticed in the video, there is a flat, gray rock near the fake turtle. There is a hole under that rock, and by the end of my visit, Opal had gone under there to hide. So I felt lucky that he had been active for my viewing pleasure. It will be fun to watch Opal grow bigger and bigger over the next year. What a privilege that is!