Common Octopus

(Octopus vulgaris)




Facts about this animal

Mantle about 25 cm long, arms about 1 m long – some forms may reach 3 m total length. The 8 tentacles or arms each have two rows of suckers, the lateral arms are longest. Webs connect the bases of the arms. The ventral siphon is important for swimming by jet propulsion although crawling over the ground by means of the arms is the usual way of locomotion. There is no shell what makes the Common Octopus extremely flexible: it can squeeze itself through narrow crevices and small holes. The eyes are well developed lens eyes and the skin can change color and surface structure quickly for an efficient camouflage.

If the Octopus is attacked it can eject ink to confuse his enemy. This ink is produced by accessory glands of the gut and stored in an ink bag.

The food consists of crustaceans (crabs and lobsters) as well as molluscs (bivalves and snails). The Octopus hunts by night and can crack his well armed prey with his beak-like jaws.

Octopuses are loners which only meet for reproduction. There, during one hour, the male transfers several spermatophores (packets of sperms) with a modified arm to the mantle cavity of the female. The female produces 120’000 to 400’000 eggs which it fastens in strings to the walls of a cavity in shallow water. During the next 25 to 65 days (depending on water temperature) the female cares about the eggs and does not feed – it usually dies after the planktonic paralarvae have emerged. The Common Octopus has a rather short life of 12 to 18 months.

Did you know?
that the Common Octopus is the most intelligent invertebrate animal and can compete even with mammals in resolving problems? that the Common Octopus has three harts and nine brains? that the biggest invertebrate animal is a cephalopod, the so called Colossal Squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) with a weight of 495 kg? that cephalopods are blue-blooded?


Name (Scientific) Octopus vulgaris
Name (English) Common Octopus
Name (French) Pieuvre commune
Name (German) Gewöhnlicher Krake
Name (Spanish) Pulpo común
Local names Danish: Ottearmet Blæksprutte
Dutch: Gewone achtarm
Italian: Polpo comune, piovra
Norwegian: Blekksprut
Portuguese: Polvo
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
Jan Beckmann



Range Species complex: Atlantic, Indian and northwestern Pacific Ocean, usually not far from the continents. Nominate form: northeastern Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.
Habitat The Common Octopus is a ground dweller and colonizes the benthos of the full continental shelf down to 200 m depth. It lives on rocks, coral reefs and seagrass meadows.
Wild population No counts found for the species complex, however, some forms may be local and critical
Zoo population 9 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo

Common Octopus


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Albert Kok

Why do zoos keep this animal

The Common Octopus is intensively fished but the catches go down. Thus, by learning more about its life cycle in captivity, the natural populations can be protected from overexploitation. This is especially important concerning the hitherto unsolved systematics of this species group.

Additionally, the Common Octopus can be used for education by demonstrating his physiological flexibility and mental intelligence in problem-solving experiments.