Three Hearts, Blue Blood, And Venom 1,000 Times Stronger Than Cyanide – We’re Talking About Octopuses

Three Hearts, Blue Blood, And Venom 1,000 Times Stronger Than Cyanide – We’re Talking About Octopuses

When you think of octopuses, you probably imagine a fleshy bag of an animal with eight arms – but there’s a lot more to these creatures than meets the eye. For starters, they have three hearts that pump blue blood, and one species even packs venom 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide. Don’t believe us? Just watch Secrets of the Octopus.

This three-part docuseries from National Geographic explores their camouflage, social lives, and intelligence, from fighting fish to hiding in coconuts, and even shielding from irritating shrimp. Narrated by Paul Rudd, and directed by National Geographic explorer-at-large James Cameron, the series is accompanied by a book of the same name, written by naturalist and author Sy Montgomery

We caught up with Montgomery to find out what it was like uncovering the Secrets of the Octopus.

I had previously written a book, The Soul of an Octopus, in which I came to know a bunch of octopuses personally. And since that came out in 2015, there was a tonne of new science. And in many cases, the discoveries that were being reported explained things that I had wondered about for years, and shed new light on these behaviours that had enchanted me when I was spending so much time with these animals.

Just how strange are octopuses?

They are so different from us, you really would have to go to science fiction or outer space to find something so alien. I mean, their head isn’t even where we think their head is, then their arms are attached to their head, and their mouth is in their armpits. They’re very unlike us, and they have no bones, and they change colour, and shape, and they pour them themselves through tiny openings. They taste with all of their skin and they have three hearts, and they have blue blood and, like, wow!

an octopus on the seabed

Learn all about their camouflage, social lives, and intelligence from April 22.

Image credit: National Geographic WILD

Do you have a favorite scene from the series?

One of the scenes that really sticks with me is there’s an octopus, who is beset with an annoying shrimp. And you would think like, “Oh, a shrimp, what’s that going to do?” Well, there are certain shrimp that have these pointy spears on their bodies, and they can poke you with it. And the octopus is a soft-bodied creature. He doesn’t like that. 

So, he’s on a sand substrate, and he doesn’t want to leave, but the shrimp keeps annoying him. And he looks around, he sees this shell over here. He picks it up and holds it up like it’s a shield. It’s so insightful. It’s so smart.

Secrets of the Octopus premieres on National Geographic WILD at 8 pm on Monday April 22, as well as on Disney+.

Look out for the next series of The Big Questions to catch the interview with Sy Montgomery in full.

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