Divers save a baby octopus

December 20, 2020 • 2:00 pm

This tiny octopus found its only refuge in a plastic cup, which of course would spell doom since predators could see it clearly. Then a group of divers came along and spent a lot of time trying to give it a better home. They finally succeeded.

I love videos like this, for they represent true altruism: the concern of our species for animals of other species. Every time I see something like this, it effaces, at least temporarily, the hatred and division that roils our planet.

The YouTube notes (there’s sound):

We spent a whole dive and most of our air saving this octopus from what was bound to be a cruel fate. The coconut octopus, also known as veined octopus, is born with the instinct to protect itself by creating a mobile home out of coconut or clam shells. This particular individual however has been trapped by their instincts and have made a home out of a plastic cup they found underwater. While a shell is a sturdy protection, a passing eel or flounder would probably swallow the cup with the octopus in it, most likely also killing the predator or weakening it to a point where it will be soon eaten by an even bigger fish.

We found this particular octopus at about 20 meters under the water, we tried for a long time to give it shells hoping that it would trade the shell. Coconut octopus are famous for being very picky about which shells they keep so we had to try with many different shells before it found one to be acceptable.

Filmed in: – Lembeh, Indonesia – December 2018

Look at that octopus check out each shell with its tentacles!

22 thoughts on “Divers save a baby octopus

  1. Heartwarming indeed, but would that shell give it more protection than the cup? I think neither would work well. I’d have given it a flower pot or ceramic cup or so.
    I’m very fond of octopuses, predator and prey at the same time.
    Their camera eyes have the retina the right way up (unlike our vertebrate eyes), which is a great example of convergent evolution. They have only one visual pigment, but have good colour vision by using by chromatic aberration (a mystery solved not so long ago). A different way of seeing. There is a lot more about octopuses, but that would make a long post contravening da roolz.
    Let us just suffice to say that octopuses are the cats among the mollusks.

  2. Mesmerizing and good on those divers. Hopefully they grabbed the cup to throw away. I love octopi of any sort…strange that I can find an 8 legged mollusk “cute”.

  3. With my grandkids I watch the TV show “Octonauts” & they had one with coconut crabs. Incidentally they are always pretty accurate with their biology save for “vegimals” a cross between 2 kingdoms!

    I can’t recall the exact story where someone returned a baby turtle to the safety of the ocean – the punchline was along the lines of not making much difference to the big picture but what a difference it makes to that one turtle!

    Thanks Prof for sharing – we need these for reassurance in dark times . . .

  4. Having done more than 150 dives at Lembeh and more than a thousand in Indonesia I can Report that the octopus is 1) not a baby. It’s a full grown coconut octopus. 2) coconuts love plastic cups. They prefer them to their natural alternative shells. Trust me. I’ve offered dozens of coconuts shells rather than their plastic cups and they absolutely don’t like the trade. 3) Lembeh is filled with plastic cups and other detritus and yet sports an Astounding amount of life that thrives in that trash. It’s very bizarre. We divers come from all over the world to dive in Lembeh trash to see the most thrilling diversity of bizarre critters.

  5. I fell in love with octopuses (Not “octopi,” as I got schooled: https://qz.com/1446229/let-us-finally-resolve-the-octopuses-v-octopi-debate/) when I first met them many years ago, as I was diving in the Santa Barbara Channel Islands. SO damned smart, graceful, and in their own way, beautiful!

    I love sashimi, but I have one iron-clad rule when eating in any sushi joint–NOTHING with any octopus in it. Mi novia and all of my cuñadas know that the same rule obtains with paella.

  6. Plastic garbage in the ocean is a real scourge. As Joseph Summer notes above, in some instances marine organisms can manage to make a home out of a piece of plastic, but in many, many more cases it kills animals including fish, turtles, sea-birds, mammals and others when they ingest or become entangled in it. The effects of ingestion of microplastics (which the larger pieces of plastic will in time become) on smaller organisms that ingest them remain to be fully understood but are likely to be detrimental.

    Plastic enters the seas by various routes but, as I understand it, a vast amount of it enters the sea via rivers particularly in poorer Asian and African countries which have poorly developed systems for the collection and disposal of garbage or for the effective treatment of sewage. I would suggest that assisting such countries develop their infrastructure for garbage and sewage treatment could be a highly beneficial way for wealthy nations to target a proportion of their overseas development aid with benefits in terms of public health in the receiving countries and wider environmental benefits in the oceans far from the original source of the waste.

    1. Thank you for understanding I’m not advocating for plastic garbage. You are absolutely correct about plastic pollution in Asian countries.

      1. Yes I understood that you were simply describing the coconut octupus’ predilection for plastic pots. I was making a wider point about plastic pollution and certainly hope that no-one construed my comment as implying that I thought you were advocating for plastic garbage as that was not at all my intention.

  7. A charming tale, but this made me cringe:

    This particular individual however has been trapped by their instincts and have made a home out of a plastic cup they found underwater.

    Hi, I’m a gender non-binary octopus and my pronouns are they, them, their.

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