He has learned that if he goes to the rocks near his den, I will take my hand out of the tank and leave. I am not sure he quite understands yet that the front top corner is an invitation to interact with my hand in the tank. When I sit in front of the tank he will climb to the designated spot and wait there for me to put my hand. He usually stays for awhile and observes but then goes to his rocks. He does not ink or appear to panic but he does swim there rather than crawl (he may think he has to swim there to get me to leave ).
It is fun trying to project what his actions and colorations mean. From almost all researchers, I know they are frustrating to predict and it has made me wonder if there is no universal patterning for emotion so that each individual animal uses its coloration and patterns independently even if a color or pattern shows a specific emotion. This one definitely shows different physical behavior than others I have kept.
STILL have not named this little guy but am determined to do so before the week is out. I am thinking something having to do with the swaying, presumably threat, behavior. So far thinking Naja - genus of Cobra, Coby, Kaa - Jungle Book, Naga - male for Nagini of Harry Potter, Snavely - Drunken snake in Pogo.
We have successfully established a signal that requires me to remove my hand from the tank and close the top (going to his den). I believe we have established an "interaction corner" (top left corner of tank). Now we are working on inviting each other to interact. He has come to this corner frequently but until today I was not sure he knows this is where I will put my hand in the tank when he comes. Prior to the video, he was wandering around on the far right live rock (almost 4' away from the interaction corner). I tried "petting" the outside of the interaction spot and he slowly sauntered over . In the past weeks he has let me pet him several times before going to his den but this was the longest encounter (and the only one with ink). His posture is quite different from other octopuses I have interacted with and I am still trying to interpret the signals. He draws his eye fully flush with his mantle (probably protecting them but a new to me behavior). Notice the swaying in the later part of the video. I think this is a sign of uncertainty (also a new to me behavior - he has done it before but this is the first I have caught it on video - and makes me think of a cobra). Notice the white coloring where I am petting him. In the past he has turned all white but now only where I pet him. My touch is very, very light and I think I pushed down slightly harder just before he inked and signaled me to leave.
We will see what he does tomorrow but I have often noted a lag of about 3 days between willing interaction events.
Finally, a name! Meet Shelby!
After the last video, I decided he needed a Cobra name because of the swaying and mantle flattening behavior he shows when I put my hand in the tank. Most of my more esoteric suggestions were given a thumbs down by Neal but he decided he could both pronounce and remember, Shelby (if you are young and/or have never been into cars the Shelby Cobras are high end muscle (mussel ) cars built in the 1960's - a Shelby version of the Mustang is still built today )
Shelby is starting to show signs of wanting human attention. Yesterday I noticed that he climbed up the far right corner of his tank, following my progress up the stairs. I am not sure how long he has been doing this but I came back down and interacted with him for over an hour. I tried to video him coming back across the tank to meet me but he would not pass the camera so I had to relocate it before he would come to the left side. I took a bunch of video but only posted this one (if you get sea-sick easily, don't watch) as a close up of him being indecisive as to whether or not he wanted to come up t my hand.
I also noticed something I had not observed on O. hummelincki before. Shelby can display a second set of eyespots directly behind his true eyes. You can see them in the video and in the attached picture. He can draw his eye completely flush with his mantle and these false eyes will easily fool the human observer. His official ocellus is below the eyes, shows here as smaller than the newly discovered augmentation and looks raised with a center pimple. The brown eye spot also shows a center raised point (it looks off center in the picture). I have seen him show other round brown markings but these are symmetrical and not something I have noticed in others. He also almost never shows the outer yellow ring on his official ocellus (it is there but is rarely displayed) but I frequently see the bright blue, showing he is still not totally comfortable with me.
I am trying to raise a type of crayfish to provide hatchling food and octo treats. I fed him two small ones tonight (mentally hard to do since I am raising them ). The first crawfish escaped into the live rock and he casually felt around for it. I gave him a second and held it until he took it. These are small enough that I am sure Pesky or the bristles will take care of the escaped food if he does not find it. He has never been an aggressive feeder and I think he steals some of the shrimp bits from Pesky (the red brittle) as well as eating the small pods (pretty much obliterated at this point). I have to coax him to take a piece of shrimp by touching it to his suckers but even then he is not grabby like most of my other wards. If I give him a piece of shrimp that is too large, he only eats what he wants and then discards the rest. He will eat crab claws but only the claw or the arm, not both.
After his initial interest in interacting, Shelby has declined to come to or stay in his "play corner" when I have approached but tonight he seemed interested again and I sat with him for awhile. Eventually he came to the interaction corner and I put my hand inside the tank. He came over and pushed against my finger, checked it out with an arm (but did not try to pull my fingers to his beak) and let me pet him once or twice, moved away (but not back to his den) and then came back. Over a period of time (maybe 15 minutes) he came and stayed for a two or three minute petting, this time without flattening out or showing nervousness (no odd coloration and normal mantle inflation). He was also out after lights out (not something I have seen before) I felt that he wanted to continue "playing" but went to bed when the dogs came bounding into the room. Sadly, I will not be home after Thursday so I hope we don't lose the progress.
He will not catch the small crayfish when he sees me put them into the tank (about once a week) and has a preference for the thawed crab claws I keep in the freezer but does not always finish his shrimp. He still looks very healthy (good color and patterning) and eats daily so I don't think I am seeing the beginning of senescence (always a suspect with a behavior change).