We are working on a behavioral project with our Giant Pacific Octopus and want to confirm something: virtually every public aquarist has "heard" the story about the octopus that would leave its tank at night, move over to a nearby one, eat some fish, then return to its own tank by morning. Most public aquariums say in their oral history, that it happened at their facility. A few months ago, I overheard one of our volunteers telling a tour group that it had happened at my facility! It never did, but this volunteer was sure that it had. My guess is that this is an urban legend because;
1) It sounds so plausible
2) It is a humorous story
3) I've never had a professional aquarist report they actually saw it themselves (its always a FOAF - "friend of a friend")
4) The stories are almost identical - its always a GPO, the "curator" is always mystified at first about the missing fish, happened to be working late one night and saw it happen, the octopus always returns to its own aquarium, the fish are usually some large Sebastes, etc.
I don't doubt that some octos "go walkabout", but GPO's aren't really known for this. My guess is that even if they did manage to land in another tank (and not the space between them) that they would eat some fish and then stay put - and not move back to their original tank.
Has anyone any FIRST HAND knowledge of this?
Curator of Fishes
The Toledo Zoo