Octopus on land?


Dec 11, 2002
To make a long story short...my very first memory as a child was trying to save a tiny, pink octopus. He was in a scallop shell on the shoreline and he kept washing up. I remember all of this so vividly. I was four years old... this is going back twenty-two years ago anyways, my question is, can octopus come on land for short periods of time if they stay moist????
I remember reading this several different times but I am still relatively confused?
So i thought I should ask the expert's!!!
Thank you
Hi. Every now and then you hear stories like this, and of octopus crawling from one rock pool to the next, often or usually at night, but I wouldn't say that this was a typical behavior of octopuses (although certain species have a recurring habit of doing it - probably shallow-water reef- or sand-flat-dwelling species). I suppose as long as the animal doesn't dry out (as in stays moist), or get attacked by some seabird or other foraging creature in the process, then it's an ok sort of thing for the animal to do (but it is a rather perilous thing for a soft-bodied potentially tasty critter to get up to, especially mid-day ... as no 4 year old should be out walking the beaches at midnight!!! :) ).
My GF spent a year in Oz and she sat and watched an octo moving from one rock pool to another.

There is a clip on 'The Octopus Show' A National Geographic video of an octopus doing just that. Cant remember offhand what species it was but Ameloctopus rings a bell????

I’ve just had a look at the documentary ‘Incredible Suckers’. A small red octopus with whitish spots from the Great Barrier Reef of the coast of northern Australia is indeed shown moving across the shore in between tidal pools to reach crustaceans. Unfortunately the species name is not given but it certainly resembles Ameloctopus. It seems to be in the right area.

I could be completely wrong!
There's a series of species up that way Phil that do this 'intertidal walkabout' thing: they've often been referred to as part of this 'Octopus macropus' complex (often red things with white spots); the group should now be referred to the genus Pinnoctopus.

In all likelihood (a guess) the species was one of either P. alpheus or P. aspilosomatis, but I'm embarassed to say I have never seen 'Incredible Suckers' so cannot tell you :(
Cheers, O
True Octopuses can actually stay out of the water for sorta long periods of time mabye even up to about 10 minutes to be the most but only if the Octopus is incredibly damp and wet so that the octpus can still use that wetness to pump in his opening gills on the sides of its mantle sac. Octopus usually leave the water when turtles come out of the season and they catch them and eat them.
As an aquarist I have spent many a fun hour or more retrieving our octopus (Pinnoctopus cordiformis) from all sorts of dry places eg under the foyer bench, in the public viewing area, halfway up the stairs on the way to the tearoom etc etc.

Now I know this is a common behaviour of many species, but my point is this, if you're the only attendant on the early shift for cleaning and you have to move a reluctant >10kg ball of squirming arms back to it's tank, it takes time!!!!!!! I have ended up taking more than an hour and a half to get him back in his tank (strangely we very rarely catch female octis!) and he is always very lively throughout the whole procedure. This to my mind indicates a certain tolerance to being out of the water for some considerable time!!:twocents:

Either that or they have a collective warped sense of humour, which delights in tormenting aquarists!!

Jean said:
Either that or they have a collective warped sense of humour, which delights in tormenting aquarists!!

That is my theory too. . .

I think that for some species it is normal to leave the water in nature. O. briarieus for example leave the water and walk tide pool to tide pool. A number of other species that do this have been pointed out above. As octopuses usually live in lairs for only a few weeks and some species have no qualms about leaving the water, stories of octopuses leaving their tanks might be considered "normal behavior" for these species.

An additional factor is senescence. Some of the stories about octopuses leaving the water may be from senescent males. In these cases the behavior is normal for animals in that life stage but not normal for younger ockies.
Taking an Ockie for a walk

I worked for a short stint at an Aquarium and we had a large Giant Pacific Octopus there called Sutton. Sutton used to love to play, and every now and then we would have to weigh her to see how she was growing. As soon as we put the large tote into her tank she would crawl in and we would carry her out to the seal scale. She was out of the water for a good 20 mins and seemed to love every minute- like going out for a walk. When we returned her to her exhibit we would have to leave the tote in there over night as she would not leave and return to her den- I think she was hoping for another 'walk'. Sutton was a very dear friend and was truly missed when she spawned out and died. :cry:
Steve O'Shea said:
Every now and then you hear stories like this, and of octopus crawling from one rock pool to the next

I've seen Octopus maorum doing this while chasing prey at Point Lonsdale, Victoria, Australia, on a low tide. It's a very flat reef, with numerous rockpools and gutters.

The octopus found a crayfish which fled at high speed, leaping from rockpool to rockpool at truly amazing speed. The octopus followed it for quite a distance before losing it - (racking memory, this was a while ago) the crayfish covered about 100 metres in about a minute, hopping over maybe 10 rockpools. The octopus followed it for maybe 30 - 50 metres, over several rockpools, before disappearing. The crayfish kept going until it reached open ocean. :)

It was a large educational trip and about 100 people were amazed at this performance.


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