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[Octopus]: Inky the Octopus hummelincki

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Feb 8, 2020
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[Webmaster Edit]: For more context, see @tduncan's introduction.

I thought I'd start with Inky's first good "baby photo". He was in his den most of the time during his first month with us; darting out just to grab some food. We placed a plastic toy one of my students brought in for him by his den. He appeared long enough to check it out and be sure it wasn't edible.

I'm also posting a short video of inky about a month after his/her arrival. When he left his den he would take on the appearance either on of the rocks in his tank, or more often a hermit crab. Hermit crabs were the only other occupant in the tank. I apologize for the quick camera angle change, I was trying to get this video while teaching class. When he climbs on top of the rock that contained his den he turns and you can clearly see his crab profile. I was always amazed by the way he moved with all his legs tucked under his body.

In retrospect, I wish I had taken more videos. He grew so fast. Now he roams the tank in full view, with his arms stretching the full height of the tank.

 

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tonmo

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awesome! @tduncan, are you OK with me moving your reply here into a new thread in the Octopus Journals forum? We'd love to follow along!

That is incredible behavior in that video, I've never seen anything quite like that from an octo :shock:
 
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Hi, sorry for the slow response. Science fair judging tomorrow, long day in the classroom.

Please move my reply anywhere you like. The marine biologist, who stops by with fiddler crabs for Inky and copepods for the seahorses, was also surprised by the video and commented he had never seen this species of octopus mimic other animal behavior. This being my first octopus experience, I just assumed it was normal defensive behavior.

Although he spent most of the time in his den at that point, he behaved this way often when he left the area of his den to look for hermit crabs or other food in his tank. One of my fifth graders was looking at the tank and asked “where’s Inky”, when I pointed to him creeping across the bottom of the tank she responded “no, I mean the octopus”. It could be really confusing. On of my subs said she took pictures, or a video. I’ll see if she still has it. I have a shorter clip from the same video I’ll post now.

 
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Hi Folks, I thought I would post a current video of Inky. I also think I need to start referring to Inky as her. I'm certainly not 100% sure of her gender, but that’s my best guess for now. I will try to get some good photos of her third right arm to post, and ask for your assistance.

Truman, my student who brought her in as a baby found in his crab trap, took the lead in naming her and referred to her as a him, and we just went with it. She was not up for photo ops those first months.

Inky becomes active at the end of the school day. For the past month or so her routine is to go to an upper front corner of the tank and hang onto the side of the tank, appearing to want some interaction. I began our interaction by dangling a few fingers in the water and she gradually made her way to the top touching my fingers, then, eventually, she touched her head to my fingers. It’s always a back and forth, up and down “dance” with contact being brief, but repetitive.

I couple of weeks ago she pulled her whole body into my cupped hand. I discovered that she seems to enjoy a very brief, soft massage of her mantle. We have this interaction on most days. I always wait for her to go to the top of the tank, and I let her come to my hand. She’s a lot less jumpy, but I can’t make sudden moves. She often sends mixed signals, gently squirting water toward me while she eases into my hand and wraps her arms around my fingers.

This routine usually lasts 5-10 minutes, then she drifts off. She may head back to the corner an hour later for more. I feel really guilty when I can’t oblige her. It’s very hard to resist. My students enjoy watching, I’m glad she waits until the end of the school day.

This video is a bit too close. Sorry, it was taken by a student on my iPad. I hope this isn’t too much context. I’m sure this video isn’t nearly as interesting as the previous “hermit crab” one I posted, but it’s what we were up to earlier today.
 

DWhatley

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Never too much context or too many images! I always called your "crab" impression a "rock" impression but watching our video I will compromise on conch :titanites: .

I have suggested in the past that the animals that clearly want to be "petted" may have somewhat itchy skin and we are serving as interactive scratching posts. I'd rather it be true affection but at least it is clear that they enjoy our interaction.
 
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I'm feeling sadness as I'm making this entry. I have observed what look like signs of senescence in Inkie.

I'm not sure of her age, I hadn’t thought she was old enough for this to begin. I have had her since the beginning of October 2019, so seven months now. She was small when I got her, so I assumed she was very young. I’m now wondering if she was older than I thought. Information on growth rate has been hard to find. Her mantle was about the size of an average grape when she arrived, and her width with her arms stretched out, tip to tip, was approximately 5-6 inches (12-15 cm). She has grown very rapidly. The marine biologist who visits with treats has said he thinks she is large for her species.

Inkie has stopped eating and pretty radically changed her behavior this past week. In retrospect she has been eating less, and spending more time resting, for a few weeks now. Until that time, she used to eat two shrimp a day, if she hadn’t eaten one of the hermit crabs in her tank. She has been eating thawed large/jumbo shrimp, larger hermit crabs, or occasionally small (3-4 inch) clawless blue crabs for months now. Months ago, she started ignoring the snails, small hermit crabs or fiddler crabs she gobbled up when she was smaller.

Back to the present, the past few weeks I had to offer her shrimp a couple of times before she would take one. I initially dismissed it, thinking she must have eaten a crab whose discarded limbs I hadn’t seen.

I don’t think she has eaten since last Thursday or Friday. At that time, she stayed in her den for two days, not coming out in the afternoon or at night, that I saw. She then left her den and hasn’t returned, even to sleep. She has a smaller den she always sleeps in, and a larger one she hung out in. She’s hanging out mostly in the back of the tank near the filter intake output area. She stays glued in one spot for long periods.

She has moved around for shorter periods late in the day and at night these past few days. She has come to the corner where she likes to be touched a few times. Hanging out with me for about 45 minutes late last night. I offered her a shrimp again and she squirted it away from the area. She did keep returning to my hand. I was able to gently massage her mantle which she normally seems to enjoy. She followed her usual routine of sort of roosting briefly, but repeatedly, in my cupped hand. I was thankful to have that time. That was the only normal behavior I have seen. When she was done with our petting session she swam quickly to the back of the tank and I don’t think she has moved in more than 12 hours.

I have done a couple of water changes, one was scheduled, the other just because I thought there might be something I couldn’t detect with testing; and honestly, I just couldn’t think of anything else to do. I use water from our nearby estuary, the Indian River Lagoon, the northern part of Canaveral National Seashore. I grabbed a couple of larger hermit crabs to add to tempt her, just in case her appetite reappeared.

She has been a little paler in color, but I don’t see the big difference in color changes I have read about. She seems to overreact to my movements and color change at times. But, she stopped eating, relatively suddenly, and abruptly changed her sleeping location and activities. I don't know what else to make of these changes.
 

tonmo

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I'm sorry you're dealing with that. Have you scouted her den for eggs (without disrupting)? It sounds like this has been in process for a while... very sorry to hear -- but I'm glad you have had some quality time with her during this period; I've not often heard of that.
 
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Thanks for your kind reply. There are no eggs in her den. Would she have laid the eggs never having had contact with a male?

I kept hoping there was another explanation, but the signs keep adding up. I forgot to mention that her arms are not "corkscrewing", but they are abnormally curled at the tips, even when she's moving around the tank.
 

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