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Does the Octopus Really “Fart” Ink?—and Other Strange Facts [Video]

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Image courtesy of Flickr/Sarah Spaulding

It’s true that the octopus is super weird. These animals have blue blood and three hearts. And as online personality and humorist Ze Frank points out in his latest video creation, it seems that they can also “fart ink at a moment’s notice”—pointing to this as “evolution at its finest.”

The video’s tongue-in-cheek tone might lead you to think that Frank is providing a bit of gross exaggeration. But he’s actually basically right about this—and a lot of other things in his recent video creation “True Facts About the Octopus” (below).

Octopuses do expel ink from their siphons, which are also the openings through which they shoot water (for swimming) and bodily waste. So although not exactly flatulence, octopuses’ ink—used to confuse predators—does emerge from the opening that could be considered its anus. Perhaps another reason to try to avoid getting inked on by an octopus. (How do you do that? Don’t startle them, scare them or make them mad.) But female octopuses also squirt the water they use to clean their eggs through this opening, so perhaps it’s not all that bad.

Some other actually true highlights from Frank:

  • Its eight arms are smart: “The octopus has distributed intelligence,” he notes. “In a way, each of its arms has a mind of its own, which is amazing. Unless, after a while you found out that one of your arms was an a–hole. That would suck.”
  • It can voluntarily remove an arm: “Some octopuses will actually remove one of their arms when threatened and let it wriggle away to confuse the hell out of predators. Data point of one, but it would confuse the hell out of me.”
  • Its suckers can taste: “Each arm of the octopus is equipped with over 250 suction cups. Each one with the ability to rotate and grasp independently. Not only are they grabby-grabby, but the suction cups contain sensory receptors, which allow it to taste and smell what it touches. This is an ability I am glad I don’t have.”

An errant use of the word “tentacles” aside (octopuses have arms but no tentacles), the video is an impressively accurate portrayal of these impressive animals. If a bit irreverent and inappropriate at times, Frank sums up the octopus in one statement about octopuses I could hardly agree with more:

“Basically, everything they do is hardcore.”

Video courtesy of YouTube/Ze Frank

Illustration courtesy of Ivan Phillipsen

Katherine Harmon Courage About the Author: Katherine Harmon Courage is a freelance writer and contributing editor for Scientific American. Her book Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature In the Sea is out now from Penguin/Current. Follow on Twitter @KHCourage.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. tuned 11:45 am 04/23/2014

    I have encountered malicious hackers more than once at “Ze Frank” site.
    He is funny though.

    Link to this
  2. 2. tuned 11:51 am 04/23/2014

    Actually, human smell is the one and only sense where the brain is considered pretty directly in contact with what is being “sensed” (substance being smelled).
    Maybe the octo has it better there with suckers smelling things instead.

    Link to this
  3. 3. tuned 11:54 am 04/23/2014

    When the “youtube” button is clicked it goes to a “HTTP” site, not “HTTPS”.
    All my youtube favorite video links go to “HTTPS”.
    What’s up with that?

    Link to this

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