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The effects I experienced after being bitten by a dwarf octopus were localized pain and swelling, loss of motor skills in the bitten hand, cramping and discolouration...all of this lasted for about 6 hours, then slowly went away. Within 24 hours, no symptoms were noticable.
Octopus bites are a fascinating subject and I hope you get lots of
responses. Keep in mind though that there's no such thing as a typical
Before continuing, let me admit that I've never been bitten and that
I'd be just as happy to keep that record intact.
About a week ago, I attended a lecture by James Cosgrove M. Sc. of the
Royal British Columbia Museum. Jim's main area of study is the
behavior of GPO's (Enteroctopus dofleini) in the wild. For that reason
I think it's safe to say the he's p*ssed off more wild GPO's than just
At the lecture I got the chance to ask about octo bites and why some
species seemed more likely to bite than others. No answer to the
second question but he made some interesting points about octo bites
in general. Specifically, octos DECIDE to bite and, once that decision
has been made they then decide whether to inject a venom (often a sort
of tranquillizer but sometimes a potentially fatal toxin) or a
digestive enzyme or nothing at all. A simple bite from most of the
species discussed here probably wouldn't be much worse than you might
get from a parakeet or cockatiel. A bite with venom could vary a lot
in its effect; keep in mind that the venom is usually intended to
subdue but not kill a prey animal that's usually an invertebrate. IOW:
The venom isn't optimized for use on humans. A bite with digestive
enzymes is often really bad news. The enzymes used by the octo are
very powerful and there have been a number of cases requiring skin
grafts and other surgical procedures to repair the damage.
As an aside, I asked Jim whether he had ever been bitten by a GPO.
He's been studying this species for decades and could only recall one
near miss. He was trying to get a particular GPO out of its den and
the animal got hold of him with the suckers on a couple of arms and
was trying to pull him into the den (he wouldn't have fit). In order
to get free he had to abandon his dive glove to the octo. Since the
octo had no interest in an empty piece of neoprene he was able to
retrieve the glove after a few minutes and discovered that the GPO had
bitten a pretty big hole in it. Presumably, if he hadn't got his hand
free the octo would have bitten him but it should be acknowledged that
there are other possibilities . Other than that he's never been bitten.
Further, the director of our center handles our GPO on a weekly basis
in connection to the cleaning of the tank and she's never been bitten.
OTOH: We no longer seem to keep a Red Octopus (Octopus rubescens) and
I suspect the reason is that she was bitten almost every time she
tried to work with one. O. rubescens bites can be most unpleasant as
can be seen in the story at this site: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/hosted_sites/tcp/octobite.html Please note that
the story mentions two incidents with quite distinctive outcomes;
pretty small sample size but it does tend to support what Jim Cosgrove
told me about octos having total control over what, if anything, they
choose to include with their bite.
My Bimac Ollie bit me on the hand, when we were playing, it startled me more then hurt, the bit might have barely broke the skin, or was close. I do not recall this was almost a year ago to date. She was not trying to hurt me; I believe she was just showing play behavior. She would always show what I believe to be play behavior by nibbling or massaging me with her beak. Close to a little puppy suckling. One time it was just a little out of hand.
My Octo Megas tried to eat me.
He had a hold of my thumbnail and was attempting to peel it off of my hand. While he was doing this he bit me at the corner of my thumbnail. Thumb swelled up and couldn't bend it for about 2 hours then was fine.
I've been bitten three times by our midgets (the bigs octis are much more laid back and I've never had even a near miss! ). They can be pretty aggro (this is the Octopus warringa/huttoni complex). In all cases I was cleaning tanks unaware that other staff had placed an octi in the tank...until it was too late!! It felt rather like a bee sting but in my case it lasted up to three weeks! (mind you I have slow metabolism and sluggish circulation.......well that's my excuse! ) And yes there was swelling and impaired motor function (but that lasted only a few hours!).
We have had the odd case in Dunedin where the bitee was allergic to the venom and had to be rushed to hospital in full anaphylaxis...nasty! Personally I treat all octopus as if they will bite! Even if they don't supply the venom..........well that's a sharp beak!
I've never been bitten....yet....but I am very careful when working with them. My daughtor Jess was bitten feeding snails to Inklet. She only had 2 small marks on her finger. There is a video posted here of her bite.
has anyone been biten by a caibean reef octo. because thats what i have and he is about 60 percent grown. arms are about 16 inches and mantle is about 3 1/2. he has never biten me but i do hand feed him everyday i was just wondering how painful it might be if it ever happens. but he dosent sem to want ot attack my hand. he is more interested in the food. i have let him touch me and he was just feeling my hand with 1 tentacle. let me know please
Don't think you have much to worry about there...when they are aggressive, they will typically raise the two front arms in a "cobra" stance prior to biting hard...I am sure that if your octo is used to hand feeding, the worst you can expect is a little nip out of curiosity.