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Octopus Bites

Good advice! Species identification is difficult in the field, the amount of venom delivered by a bite can vary considerably, and people may be allergic to the compounds delivered. I would like to have an image of the wound to include in PowerPoint that I present to classes going into the field. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

O. briareus Nip - corpusse

Transferred from journal

Age Guess 5-6 months

I'm not sure how fond of me he is lately, I just got bit! I think it might have been an accident. I was quickly hand feeding him a shrimp. As far as I know I'm the first to be bit? The skin is punctured the size of a pinhole and I lost maybe 1/8th of a drop of blood. No big deal but I was pretty surprised!

His feeding schedule has been a bit erratic lately. That may have also contributed.

As soon as he broke the skin I started moving around until I could get him to release me.

Initially I didn't think it was a big deal, however about 12hrs later in the shower there was a mild to moderate burn. It swelled up, but still very minor.

By the next day I did not feel it at all, but now 5 days later there is a tiny mark.

Again the bite overall was nothing. Less of a sting then a lionfish or bee.


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Hi all! I'm checking in to see if there are any updates on octopus bites. Now that people are diving with/keeping a greater variety of cephalopods I'm putting together a quick note that drives home the point that we know very little about which octopuses have bad bites. In other words- when you go diving or you set up your tank, don't let that mimic, wunderpus, etc. bite you because we don;t know how bad it could be. If it's ok with you I'd love to summarize the bite information from this thread, and of course credit the Tonmo community. I want to post this on Tonmo, but also see if we can get it on WetPixel, so it can reach more divers.
Article: Don't Test the Venom - Crissy Huffard

Mucktopus' article on WetPixel:

Don’t test the venom! A reminder not to touch the cephalopods you see on your dive.

By Crissy Huffard.

I was stirred to write this aticle when a friend sent me new footage of a mimic octopus in Indonesia. It’s a common scene. The octopus is sitting at its den entrance. It takes hold of the diver’s slate and the diver uses this to try to slowly tease it out to the open sand. But then before you know it, the octopus reaches for the diver’s bare hand, pulls the fingers in slowly, slowly, and eventually its beak is right over the diver’s hand. As the arms and mouth delicately feel around the hand, all I can think is “Don’t bite, Don’t bite!” and “Ack! Why in the world are you letting that octopus crawl all over your bare hand?! It could be dangerous!!”

full article:

Don't test the venom
I am getting my occy on saturday - its a small reef octopus (im in Perth, WA so not sure where exactly its from) but i am actually freaking out about getting bitten now after reading these posts!!
Does it actually hurt and will it keep biting you every time you put your hand in or will it grow a custom to your hand knowing that you feed it (rumours i have heard) and what does it feel like when the suckers/tenticles/legs/arms stick to your fingers? :goofysca:
I've not experienced skin breakage so no venom and cannot give an opinion on pain. Biting is rare for home keepers but there have been a few animals that have become aggressive, making tank cleaning difficult. I have found the ones here to be generally territorial and will warn you about "messing with their dens" but not attack. Some "play" rougher than others and it is important to keep your hand away from the beak area, regardless of how well you know the animal. If your fingers smell/taste like supper, it may easily be mistaken and get nipped even by a docile animal. Like most, if not all, wild animals, octopuses are not domesticated/domesticatable. USUALLY, if they start to put too many arms around your hand, you can gently touch the back of the arm and be released. Sometimes this takes a bit of manipulation as you only have 5 fingers but TYPICALLY, that is more than the number of arms trying to attach. The first time an octopus reaches up and touches you is usually a shock and a thrill for both parties. In spite of knowing you should not jerk your hand away, instincts on both sides usually end up with this reaction. I still unconsciously jerk a little when Octavia sneaks up on me while I clean her tank. :biggrin2: She has a habit of doing this and it is quite comical. It appears that she is just letting me know that I am invading her space and that I better behave as she is not aggressive but definitely sneaks up on me but keeping well camouflaged until she reaches out to touch. If she was inclined to bit, she could probably do so.

Do suckers feel very different than other touching experiences? I would have to say yes. Most live octopuses are not slimy and are very soft to touch (there are exceptions to the slimy but you are not likely to acquire one. Dead animals are very slimy.). The suckers are not rough but are definitely suckers and a strong animal can leave temporary marks on your forearm and back of your hand (I have never had marks on the palm area).

It is not unusual for an octopus to accept light petting between and in front of the eyes once they are not afraid of your hand. This area is above the arms and not an easy grab to attempt a bite. I don't believe they can actually see you pet them but some will come to their keepers for a small amount of very gentle handling. I see this most in older animals and suspect it has to do with scratching an itch kind of feel on older skin.
Just thought I would add my 2 cents since I had a nip from my new baby:

Species of octopus Callistoctopus Luteus (Starry Night octopus)
Age of octopus: Unsure, not captive bred.
Size of mantle: 1 inch approx
Type of bite: Series of bites
How did it occur? During acclimatisation to my tank water in a bucket he wrapped his tentacles around my forefinger and started having a nibble. I didn't want to hurt him by forcing him off so just left him to it until he loosened his grip then he shook off easily.
Reaction: He held on maybe 3 minutes or so during which time he was nibbling. It wasn't painful until he broke the skin but even then it wasn't too bad. My hand and lower arm went tingly and a bit numb soon afterwards which lasted about 4-5 hours. There was a little bleeding but not much. The next day I was fine. I did wash the wound immediately but it got infected regardless - or rather my lymphatic system did. A week later I woke up with swelling in the same finger and tracking up my arm along my lymph vessel. This seems to have all cleared up with a course of augmenitin, although my finger is still swollen 3 days into the course of antibiotics. The wound site itself is fully healed and you can hardly see it.
Comments about the bite and your reaction: If this were to happen again I would go straight to the docs for antibiotics even if I feel fine. Even though I didn't feel poorly the tracking up my arm and having to wait 4 hours to be seen in A&E wasn't fun!
I think Jean might have some seafood allergies?

Nope...just don't realy like to eat seafood.........I'm allergic to peanuts and other legumes! Having said that I have had prolonged responses to octopus bites.....so perhaps have some sensitivity!

Species of octopus O. huttoni
Age of octopus: <1 year
Size of mantle: ~6cm
Type of bite: locked bite, broke skin
How did it occur? during tank cleaning, octi had been put in the tank by another staff member who neglected to record it :roll: I pick up a shell and the octi, who had taken up residence in it objected and bit!
Reaction:broke skin, some bleeding burning pain, swelling and loss of fine motor control to fingers, lasted over a week......hmmmmmm maybe there is some allergy there! Although I have heard of similar responses (and worse!) from this species!!!
Comments about the bite and your reaction: Main issue at the time.......we were open to the public and I had a young family watching me clean, I had to say I was playing with the animal, which was NOT what I wanted to say (that was not for tender young ears!). I did suggest however that they shouldn't play with octopus!
Photos: none too busy finding aformentioned staff member and reaming him out!
Infiltrated plaques resulting from an injury caused by the common octopus (Octopus vulgaris): a case report
Vidal Haddad Jr,Claudia Alves de Magalhães 2014 (full PDF - includes photos)

Several species of octopus are considered venomous due to toxins present in the glands
connected to their “beak”, which may be associated with hunt and kill of prey. Herein, we
report an accident involving a common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) that injured an instructor

during a practical biology lesson and provoked an inflamed infiltrated plaque on the hand of
the victim. The lesion was present for about three weeks and was treated with cold
compresses and anti-inflammatory drugs. It was healed ten days after leaving a hyperchromic
macule at the bite site. The probable cause of the severe inflammation was the digestive
enzymes of the glands and not the neurotoxins of the venom.
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Pseudomonas oryzihabitans cutaneous ulceration from Octopus vulgaris bite: a case report and review of the literature.
Birgit Angela Aigner , Markus Ollert, Florian Seifert, Johannes Ring, Sabine Gisela Plötz 2011 (full text available for free signup on Research Gate)

Link includes several interesting citations with links on other bite cases

ABSTRACT Octopus vulgaris is a common marine animal that can be found in nearly all tropical and semitropical waters around the world. It is a peaceful sea dweller with a parrotlike beak, and its primary defense is to hide through camouflaging adjustments. Bites from animals of the class Cephalopoda are very rare. We describe a boy who was bitten on his forearm by an Octopus vulgaris.
A 9 -year-old boy was bitten by an Octopus vulgaris while snorkeling. There was no strong bleeding or systemic symptoms; however, 2 days later, a cherry-sized, black, ulcerous lesion developed, surrounded by a red circle that did not heal over months and therefore had to be excised. Histologic examination showed ulceration with extensive necrosis of the dermis and the epidermis. A microbial smear revealed Pseudomonas (formerly known as Flavimonas) oryzihabitans. After excision, the wound healed within 2 weeks, without any complications or signs of infection.
To the best of our knowledge, this case represents the first report of an Octopus vulgaris bite resulting in an ulcerative lesion with slow wound healing owing to P oryzihabitans infection. We recommend greater vigilance regarding bacterial contamination when treating skin lesions caused by marine animals.

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