What Do Octopus Eat?

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Octopus swimming along sea floor

The octopus is one of the more intelligent and diverse of all ocean invertebrates. This denizen of the deep is easily recognized by its eponymous eight legs, but it also has no internal or external skeleton which allows it to squeeze through tight places. Because they live in coral reefs, deep ocean sea, and near the ocean floor, they tend to eat prey also found in these locations.

The octopus diet depends on where the particular species spends most of its time. Bottom-dwelling octopus varieties feed mainly on mollusks like clams and whelks and sometimes crabs. Open-ocean (or pelagic water) octopuses eat prawns, small fish, and even other cephalopods. Large species like the giant Pacific octopus eat everything from shrimp, clams, and lobsters to big prey like sharks and birds.

How Does An Octopus Eat?


Octopuses hunt mainly at night. Typically, they use their arms to catch the prey. Then they inject paralyzing saliva that softens the flesh. For shelled mollusks, this often means drilling a hole into the shell and injecting the saliva through the hole. Sometimes shells can be pried open. Then, the octopus bites and dismembers the prey into small pieces and sucks out the flesh.

An octopus will eat about three times its weight during its lifetime.

Do Octopus Have Beaks?

Yes, the beak is located on the lower side of the body below the eye where the eight legs join. It is the only hard part of the octopus’ body. The octopus' beak is made from keratin, the same material that a bird's beak and our fingernails are made of. The beak is used to crush prey.

Do Octopus Have Teeth?

An octopus usually has three kinds of teeth (known as denticles) located on a ribbon-like structure called the radula, and they are used to drill into shells. The beak is often not enough to get into mollusk shells. Inside the octopus mouth are saw-like teeth that can start a hole, however, most of the drilling is done with what are known as salivary papilla (small teeth-like bumps). Another type, the salivary teeth, are what push the paralyzing saliva forward into the drilled hole.

Do Octopuses Eat Themselves?

Marine biologists first noticed octopus missing limbs and attributed it to predatory damage or even autotomy - a behavior where an animal breaks off a limb to impress a mate.

Aquarium biologists then observed octopus in captivity consuming their own arms. They speculated that it was either as a result of lack of food or boredom and stress. However, no amount of overfeeding or stimulation stopped the behavior, known as autophagy. Today, it is still sometimes thought that stress is the cause.

There has been some limited research in this area which shows that this is an abnormal behavior that may be caused by a virus that attacks the octopus' nervous system. There is still little known about the virus, and the resulting autophagy often kills the octopus within weeks.

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