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10 Octopus Adaptations (Evolutionary Secrets!)

Octopus Adaptations

Examples of octopus adaptations include their changing colors, jet propulsion, defensive ink sacs, ability to regrow limbs, and suction caps on their tentacles.

The octopus is one of the most unique creatures on the planet. Scientifically speaking, all 300 species of Cephalopods that belong to the order “Octopoda” are considered octopuses, and they’re close relatives to squids and cuttlefish.

Various species of the eight-legged cephalopod can be found in all oceans around the world, as they’re capable of adapting to a huge range of marine habitats.

If you want to know more about these adaptations, this guide is for you. In today’s article, we’ll walk you through 10 octopus adaptations that will let you find out more about this impressive organism.

Octopus Adaptations

1. Three Hearts

The circulatory system is one of the most impressive aspects of an octopus, as it actually has not one but three hearts.

Two of these hearts are built exclusively for pumping blood to and from the gills while the third (larger) one is responsible for systemic circulation, just regular hearts.

Interestingly, the primary hearts stop when they swim, which is why octopuses typically crawl on the seafloor rather than swim.

The main reason why octopuses developed this unique circulatory system is that they live deep in the ocean where oxygen levels are pretty low and the water is pretty cold.

Instead of iron-containing hemoglobin, octopuses’ oxygen-transporting molecule, known as hemocyanin, is bound to copper, making octopus’ blood blue!

2. Changing Skin Color

Whether it’s for catching unaware prey or escaping predators, camouflage and adapting to the environment of the octopus is quite crucial, and luckily, it’s one of their most impressive aspects!

If you look at the octopus’s skin under the microscope, you’ll find small pigmentation sacs, called “chromatophores”.

These colorful sacs expand and contract by the action of small papillae muscles under the skin, allowing the octopus to change in both color and texture in order to match their surroundings perfectly!

Besides defense and camouflage, male octopuses also utilize this adaptation to impress females in mating season.

3. Eight Arms

Although many people refer to the octopus limbs as “tentacles”, they’re actually arms. This is because they have suction cups all over their arms and not only near the end, but more on that later.

In addition to having 3 hearts, octopuses also have 9 brains. One central brain in their head which is shaped like a thick ring, and 8 other smaller brains in each of their limbs. These mini-brains allow them to control each one of these arms separately!

While all 8 limbs have the same structure, depending on the direction the octopus is moving, the rear two will be used as likes, allowing them to push forward while it grabs and anchors itself to other objects on the surface.

The lack of bones in its body comes with several benefits, such as crawling in tight spaces and strengthening its arm’s radial and longitudinal muscles significantly, giving it remarkable grasp and pull power.

4. Jet Propulsion

Although octopuses prefer crawling on the ocean floor, it still needs a method to quickly escape danger when they need to, and that’s where their jet propulsion adaptation comes in handy!

Like other cephalopods, octopuses have a siphon at the base of their mantle (their head/body area). This siphon is a small tube-like organ that shoots out the water that passes through their gill slits, which is essential for the octopus to breathe.

In normal conditions, water comes out of the siphon at a regular rate. However, when an octopus is in danger or wants to move forward rapidly, it can contract the siphon muscles hard to rapidly shoot out a jet of water.

This jet allows the octopus to propel forward and escape danger. It can also change the direction of the siphon in order to adjust its trajectory while zooming away.

5. Ink Sac

The siphon also has another important function that counts as a standalone adaptation. In fact, it’s one of the most iconic defensive mechanisms that octopuses have.

Octopuses have a gland-like inc sac just below their siphon. This ink is made up of melanin pigment, which is the same one that colors our skin, hair, and eyes, but it’s also mixed up with some mucus, which makes it thick.

During the jet propulsion, octopuses can also trigger an inking response on command. When that happens, the mixture of ink and mucus is then released during the jet propulsion.

Here’s a quick video that shows you a combination of all the previously mentioned adaptations so far!

6.  Beak

Octopuses have sharp beaks that they use to bite on prey. They also have a rough tongue with small sharp teeth in their mouth, called “radula”, which they use to scrape their prey.

All octopuses produce paralyzing venom, although the danger of the venom varies greatly between species.

7. Suction Cups

The suction cups on octopus arms are not only essential for gripping objects, but they also contain tons of chemical receptors.

These cups contribute greatly to their awareness of their surroundings, such as their sense of taste and touch. Adult octopuses have around 2,240 suction cups in total.

8. Regrowing Limbs

Octopuses also have superior regenerative abilities that allow them to regrow a fully functional limb in around 3 to 4 months.

What makes the octopus’s ability to regenerate its limbs great is that the new limb is as good as the original, unlike many other animals that can only regrow a noticeably inferior limb!

9. Statocyst Receptors

Last but not least, octopuses have excellent sensitivity to even the lowest frequency vibrations in their surroundings, which is essential to detect their small prey. This ability is all thanks to their statocyst receptors.

In addition to detecting vibrations, the receptor is also able to detect the octopus’s angular rotation in water to maintain its horizontal orientation.


This wraps it up for today’s guide about the amazing octopus adaptations and how they help them survive and thrive in their habitats.

As you can see, octopuses have managed to evolve a wide array of tricks over millions of years, making them one of the most impressive invertebrates on the planet!

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