[Octopus]: Inky the Octopus hummelincki


Pygmy Octopus
Feb 8, 2020
Oak Hill, Florida
[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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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:
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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well, I’m seeing more really odd behavior and I just thought someone else might have had the same experience.

As I shared Wednesday, Inkie hasn’t eaten since last week (Thursday or Friday). I’m still offering her thawed shrimp a couple of times a day. She pushes/squirts them away. There are also 4 hermit crabs living in the tank and a small blue crab. She ignores them if they practically crawl over her.

She's still spening the day sleeping, and completely ignores her dens. Yesterday she had cleared the sand away in a narrow space between a big pile of rock and the back wall of the tank, below the filter intake, and stayed there attached to the wall in a flattened circle without moving the entire day and early evening.

She has been active very late at night/early morning the last few days so I checked on her at about 1:30 AM. She was out and moving around on the glass in the front of the tank. When I sat by the tank, she went to the left front corner, the place where she most likes to interact with me. In the past few months, she has never spent more than about 45 minutes interacting with me. Last night she not only stayed almost continually in the corner for more than an hour and a half, but she seemed much “less inhibited” for lack of a better term.

For example, in our normal routine, I always usually wait for her to rise up in the corner until she meets my hand. If I moved toward her, she would “freeze” and back up. She initiated the contact. She would come to my hand briefly, them move a short distance away, and then return over and over. I would also gently stroke her arms as she pulled away, but she didn’t want my hand following her.

Last night she stayed in the corner, and stayed almost constantly in contact with my hand. She has always seemed to most enjoy having the underside of her mantle gently massaged. Last night she positioned herself so that I could keep rubbing her as she slowly went up and down in the corner. She also let me rub her tentacles, front and back, pretty vigorously.

Sorry for all the detail, it was just a VERY different experience. I was so happy to have the contact, given the situation, that I would has stood there for hours. But things took a much weirder turn. She all of the sudden put her arms over the side of the tank and began to pull herself out, crawling toward me. I gently guided her back in. She then moved even closer ,right in front of me, and slowly started out of the tank again. I guided her back in again. Then in a minute or so she quickly pulled herself over the edge of the tank and was almost all in my hand! Her mantle was over the edge. I placed her back in the tank and quickly put the glass cover on the tank. I made sure the tank was secure, I have an odd mix of glass covers in the front and mesh with heavy duty Velcro securing the back.

She has never made any effort to leave her tank! When she was smaller, she ate snails found in the area she would snag them along the top edge, where they hid. And she would occasionally check the rim for hermit crabs clinging to a filter pipe, often squirting them down. But she never even showed any interest in exploring the tank top edge.

I’m not sure what to do now if she reappears in her favorite spot. I will be very difficult to ignore her, but the climbing onto me from the tank really freaked me out and I don’t want her getting hurt, even in her final days.
I have experienced a lot of octopuses trying to "haul out" as I put it. It's important to stay vigilant whenever you have the lid of the tank removed. You could also use a net or a piece of plastic to keep her from reaching over the lip of the tank.

As you've said earlier in the thread, Inky may be starting to under go senescence. Her lack of interest in eating, ignoring prey in the tank, strange behaviors, and that she is no longer spending time in the dens she has previously made are all signs of senescence.

Make sure to spend some quality time with Inky while they are still around. It's a pleasure to see all the photos and text write-ups you do.
I too have noticed that my octopuses become more interactive as they move through senescence. It’s a tough thing to go through, but enjoy it while you can! If you can have another person around when you are handling her, that can be helpful if she tries to haul out again- it’s a step I take with my more social octopuses.

It’s hard because it feels like you become more “bonded” with your octopuses during senescence, only to loose them. I just remember that I’d rather have them die at my house and make me sad, than get eaten by predators out in the ocean.

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