Is a small octopus less intelligent than a large one?

A few days ago I stumbled across a picture of a tiny octopus in one of those standard bags for bringing fish home from the petshop. Unfortunately, there wasn’t any text to go with the photo, so I don’t know if was a baby, or simply a smaller breed.

This got me to wondering, though. Octopuses are generally thought to be quite clever, but articles about that sort of thing tend to show rather large ones. Not all octopuses are the same size, of course, so I’m curious if the small ones are also intelligent. So, does anyone know?

I’m mostly curious because I like the idea of having one as a pet (if it’s even legal) one day but I have ethical objections to keeping intelligent creatures, like primates and large parrots, as pets.

Very hard to say. Even large octopi have tiny little brains. But brain size is not the defining characteristic of intelligence, rather, structure is. Certainly brain size correlates with intelligence but a large brain is not necessary for intelligence. Neanderthals had larger brains than we do. You also have to define what you mean by intelligence. Not being a social animal, octopi probably don’t have a lot of emotional intelligence. Having eight arms, however, they have very high motor intelligence. That probably won’t tug at your heart strings so it’s probably safe to have one as a pet. They are basically little machines. (IMO…)

This is an interesting point of view and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss it with you - I don’t quite agree with you, I think, but I don’t wish to argue, or persuade you to change your view - more the other way around, in fact - I’d like to hear more on the subject from your POV. If you feel like discussing it (probably in a different thread in MPSIMS maybe)

I’ve had small octopi as pets and they are unbelievably intelligent and total escape artists. You really have to escape-proof the tank. they can squeeze through very small spaces. I had one that slept in a Heineken bottle. Sadly they have a very short lifespan, about 1.5 years. The longest I ever had one was 2 years. Once they are acclimated, they will follow you around the room and interact with you when you approach the tank. Its a serious bummer when they die. I doubt I’ll ever get another.

I seem to recall reading that octopi sometimes change color according to mood. Wiki doesn’t mention it, so maybe I’m crazy. It does mention that their intelligence is such that some countries don’t allow surgery to be performed on them without anesthesia.

They’ll leave the tank intentionally? Like at random times, you might walk by and find your octopus “gasping” on the floor? :frowning:

Well, heck – here’s a pic of an octopus moving on land between tidal pools. Learn something new every day.

I assume they mostly need water, though, right? You couldn’t keep really an octopus in a terrarium, I assume.

Heh. I always thought Cthulhu would be bigger. Learn something new every day, I guess.

Ia, Ia, Cthulhu ftaghn, etc.

There are many tales of octopuses escaping their tank, finding their way to another tank with fish or snails or small crabs in it, eating some of the creatures then returning “home.”



How long can octopuses hang out in the open air? Can octopus owners scoop their octopuses out of the tank and play around with them on the floor? Can the octopus hang out on your lap while you watch TV? :smiley:

This is pretty fascinating, I must say.

I’m told they can be fine out of water for up to about half an hour. They’re not particularly cuddly.

A family friend worked at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California, where they maintained a pretty impressive aquarium/marine research station. They were having problems with crabs going missing and quickly discovered that an octopus was getting out of its tank, crossing the room, eating their fill and then heading home. They can’t breath out of water, but it only had to go 20 feet or so between tanks. In real life, they might do the same in intertidal pools.

Despite the obvious intelligence of octopuses, they’re not generally considered as intelligent as a dog or cat. They’re mostly remarkable because many other mollusks have no brain at all.

My objection is simply that many people who would like to own these highly intelligent creatures will not provide them with the intellectual stimulation that they need in order to be well adjusted. We don’t keep kids ages 3-6 in cages because we know they won’t thrive that way, but too many animals about that smart end up in situations were they languish from lack of challenge/stimulation. I don’t think that it’s impossible to keep them as pets and meet their needs, just that far too often they aren’t met by people who aren’t expert in caring for them.

I’ve heard this same story from the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro and the Sea-Life Center in Berlin. I don’t doubt that it or something like it has happened somewhere, but I am amazed at how the story gets around and is attributed to different facilities. :slight_smile:

Perhaps it’s common?

That’s entirely possible, but now that I’ve heard it a few times if I were to keep an octopus I’d be careful that it couldn’t squeeze through gaps in its tank’s or enclosure’s lid. They are amazing squeezers.

Yes. Having no bones they can squeeze through any space they can fit their beak through. I’ve heard a melon-sized octopus can get through an opening the size of a nickel.

Mine always grabbed my hands when I was doing water changes. It used to freak me out because I thought he was going to bite me. He never did, and it seemed like he looked forward to our arm wrestling. I did have a Picasso Trigger that bit me pretty bad once. Took a chunk out.

Cool video of a large octopus squeezing itself through holes and tubes of various sizes, including one the size of a quarter.