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April 2003 Vol. 18, No. 4   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The 15-foot octopus is alive and well

from the April, 2003 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

If you thrill over those little eight-legged, three-foot wide creatures you might discover in the Caribbean, you ought to try diving Puget Sound in Washington State. There you'll find the largest octopuses in the world -- the Giant Pacific octopuses whose heads can be as big as watermelons and can measure 15 feet long and weigh as much as 100 pounds.

To detect whether the population is healthy, divers sponsored by the Seattle Aquarium hit the water in February to see how many they could find. Roland Anderson, Puget Sound curator at the Seattle Aquarium, told the Associated Press that 136 divers counted 73 octopuses, concentrated in three areas -- Admiralty Inlet near Port Townsend and Keystone, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and Hood Canal.

One goal was to see if octopuses were back in Hood Canal, which has been suffering from low dissolved oxygen for several years. Two years ago, they saw no octopuses in the canal. "They are definitely back," Anderson said. Oxygen levels were particularly low last fall, causing fish to flee or move to shallow water.

Divers reported seeing two dying or dead octopuses. Both were in their dens guarding a clutch of eggs, which was probably why they died. Female octopuses lay one clutch of 70,000 eggs during their lifetime of two to three years. The female will barricade herself in her den with the eggs for six months without eating, losing up to half her body weight. When the eggs hatch, she dies.

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