An archive of some of the thoughts and observations posted on TONMO.com in the early years...
A Mother's Day Reflection
By Tony Morelli
As we know, next to our own moms (who are indeed the very best), octopus moms are among the most selfless in the universe. My sister and her husband made a trip to Portugal this past week, and were able to visit the Lisbon Oceanarium, which is Europe's largest aquarium. While there they observed what they believed to be an expectant mother octopus. My brother-in-law jotted down some notes from the display so they could be shared with the TONMO.com community. The display reads as such:
Pacific Common Octopus
Also known as the giant octopus, this cephalopod lives in the Pacific Ocean from Asia Pacific to California shores. Its arm span can reach to almost 4 meters and it can weigh as much as 60 kilograms. Its maximum life span is believed to be about 5 years. After mating with a mature male, a female may lay up to 100,000 eggs over a period of several days. Eggs are protected and incubated in a den which is often a rocky crevice or sometimes a man made object. The octopus forages at night and preys on crustaceans and mollusks favoring crab and shrimp.
We went on to discuss how octopus eggs reside on "strings" hanging off the ceiling of the octopus mother's den. Mothers are fiercely protective of their eggs, and in fact care for them until they hatch, and then the mother dies. Mothers care for the eggs tirelessly, keeping them clean by "blowing" fresh oxygenated water over them via her siphon and picking them clean with her tentacles. They actually starve themselves caring for the eggs.... when the eggs finally hatch, the mother ultimately turns almost completely white and dies. You can see a photo of Colin Dunlop's dying mother O. briareus by clicking here.
I find it analogous to the way our own moms care for us in our society. It's the most giving and important job a being can take on. Happy Mother's Day!
Does an octopus really have three hearts?
...and how do they breathe? I've been asked these questions on a few occasions.
The fact is that octopuses do possess three hearts. Each has an important role in fueling the impressive respiration and circulatory system of the octopus. The best detailed answer to your question can be found at this site. Also, check out my response to a letter dated 10/12/00 in the Letters To the Editor: 2000 section of this site.
As always, thanks again for all the great mail -- keep it coming!
On 11/21/00 the cable station FLIX aired Tentacles, a movie about a menacing giant octopus off the pacific. I'm very sorry I was unable to see it. Richard Ellis gave it a wonderfully awful review in his book, Monsters of the Sea. It sounds like one of those movies that is so bad it would be endlessly fascinating to watch.
More Octopuses on Your Television
Well, October 29th's  The Octopus Show from the NATURE series on Channel Thirteen/WNET in New York was great -- I hope you didn't miss it. It featured excellent footage and was wonderfully edited. Later in the program was a deep-sea excursion treat showing some never-before-seen species of octopus -- including two completely different species hanging out together. Not mating, just seemingly co-existing. Quite unusual for the normally solitary octopus. Great stuff!
Cephalopods in Modern Culture
FYI: a large squid can be spotted at the beginning of the British-made animated children's program Rupert, which appears daily on The Disney Channel. Rupert, an inquisitive bear, can be seen riding the back of of the squid but jumps off moments before it wiggles into a cave.
Another Meal Anecdote
While I did have some fried calamari last night [October 5th, 2000], I do have a more interesting cephalopod culinary anecdote to share with you in this edition. A friend explained to me how he enjoyed grilled squid recently at a fine NYC restaurant. It was prepared in such a way that the tentacles were separated from the mantle -- the mantle was not stuffed in any way; it was hollowed. It was described as very good.
[On September 15th, 2000] I enjoyed a fabulous dish of scallops, mussels, shrimp and calamari at one of our favorite local restaurants. I must admit, I can't help thinking about our amazing cephalopod friends swimming in the deep, dark sea whenever I chew on some springy calamari. I find it therapeutic.
I spoke with a co-worker this week who told me of his run-in with some octopuses during low-tide on some beach somewhere. He was amazed at their stealth and ability to smoothly and discreetly disappear. He observed one slide, seemingly without effort, into a small crevasse under a rock when approached.
Hail to the Octopus
With Campaign 2000 kicking into high gear, I've taken a moment to consider the party mascots -- the donkey and the elephant. I suppose both animals are worthy of praise for their penchant to work hard and stay loyal to their causes. But I've realized that I can't think of a better or more impressive animal to symbolize greatness, ability, grace, sensitivity and devotion than the octopus. I won't go into all of the details here to make my point -- but consider its intelligence, its martyr-like mothering instincts, its ability to adapt to changes in order to succeed, and above all its eight, self-operating and sensory-independent arms, which sybmolize dynamics and diversification -- not to mention multi-tasking. Three cheers for the octopus!
It's amazing to think that octopuses can grow back a tentacle after it's ripped off. How long will it be before those powers of regeneration are harnessed and employed for the sake of humans? Imagine a prosthetic bone structure where human muscle and flesh is designed to grow over and attach itself in a pre-determined form! While there are many creatures who can grow back severed body parts, I can't think of any that are larger than the octopus. Can you?
Visit to the Jersey Shore
I spent an enjoyable week on the New Jersey shore. Along with seeing some dolphins just off-shore headed North in some unusually warm and clear waters, I thought you'd enjoy knowing that I had a nice plate of shrimp and scallops in a white wine sauce on a bed of squid-ink linguine. I also was able to crack some Maryland crabs on Saturday... Delicious, and fun!
Visit to the NEAQ
I was fortunate enough to visit the New England Aquarium this weekend with my sister- and brother-in-laws. I had been there 20 years ago, and this time was happy to see that Myrtle the Turtle was still alive and well. She's now over 60.
I was also delighted to observe a giant Pacific octopus, and took a few pictures. If they come out admirably I'll share a scan of it here. On our way out I noticed an impressive cuttlefish tank -- what beautiful animals!
Discovery Channel Octopus Documentary Review
On June 24, 2000 at 8pm there was an octopus documentary on the Discovery Channel. It was very interesting, focusing on the life-cycle of the typical octopus and was largely interested in its feeding habits. It was clearly produced to induce maximum drama -- for example, there was the scene where our hero (a female Octopus vulgaris) was scooped up by the Evil Fishermen seeking to collect shellfish.
Later in the program she shimmied her way into a lobster trap and was again brought aboard a ship. Surely not likely life experiences for your typical octopus -- twice, no less. In this respect the documentary was disappointing, because there is certainly no need to embellish the story of the octopus. Still, true to Discovery form, the hour-long program was peppered with interesting facts and excellent footage.
I spoke with a few friends this past week about TONMO.com, and we traded some great octopus anecdotes. For example, there's the story of a guy who had a pet octopus in his bedroom and also some fish in a separate tank. The owner would sometimes wake up to find some of his fish missing. One night, he was sleeping lightly and heard a noise. It was his octopus leaving its tank, going to the fish tank, nabbing one, and returning to its tank. The owner inspected the octopus' tank and found some cleaned bones placed neatly under a rock.
Discovery Channel Squid Quest Review
Last night (June 4, 2000) The Discovery Channel presented Quest for the Giant Squid, and their Web site hosted a live Webcast after the show with Clyde and Ingrid Roper. After the Webcast, The Discovery Channel said it would soon make it available for viewing in its site archives. The June 3-10 edition of TV Guide Magazine wrote a feature article about the documentary as well.
As stated, the team does not successfully find the elusive Architeuthis, though many dead specimens are examined by an on-shore laboratory in New Zealand (the site of the expedition). The interviews from experts are worth watching; popular author Richard Ellis makes an appearance and weighs in on his thoughts about their probable feeding behavior.
The animation and real expedition footage from within the submersible tank make this documentary wholly worth watching.
Some interesting deep sea animals were caught on camera for the first time, such as the prickly shark. Related Trivia Question: What is the special name given to baby sharks? (e.g., "kid" is to goat as "BLANK" is to shark). Answer below.
Trivia Answer: a baby shark is called a "cub".
-- Tony Morelli, TONMO.com Webmaster