Creating an octopus hunting grounds...

Discussion in 'Behavior and Intelligence' started by cbarela, Feb 5, 2012.

  1. cbarela

    cbarela Blue Ring Registered

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    Hello all!
    An idea that I am toying with for our aquarium's Giant Pacific Octopus is to create an adjunct aquarium that would essentially be a playground/hunting grounds that the octopus could access at certain times throughout the day. It would access this by leaving the water and crawling over a small rocky shelf to get to the other tank.
    My idea is that this would add a level of interaction for the GPO... like taking a dog to a dog park... and this allows husbandry to hide toys, live critters so that the octopus has to actually hunt around for them.
    I an vetting this idea here before going to the husbandry staff with it so I have my ducks in a row (I am the exhibit designer).
    Thoughts??
     
  2. Cuddlycuttlefsh

    Cuddlycuttlefsh Vampyroteuthis Registered

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    Love the idea, I've always had the idea in my mind to create a nature-like enrichment experience by having the octo to look for the crabs or whatever rather than shoving a kebob into the aquarium. Which aquarium do are you working for? I'd love to see the finished result. :smile:

    If it's going to be a playful theme then, maybe clear and see-through labyrinth of pipes for the octo play in?
     
  3. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    Can you ascertain that they come out of the water to hunt before senescence? I have never worked with the larger animals but the little I have read on them suggests they are not like the rubescens that does this naturally in the wild to hunt. After seeing several too small envionments for these animals, my own thought is to give it as much whole space as possible and then designating a section of the always available space for feeding and hunting. Maybe something with a low wall and a 45 degree inward pointing top wall to help contain the crawling food but still allow swimming above the divider?

    I have a split tank (basically 2 tanks connected by two 6" tubes) that my much smaller animals (frequently O. briareus) seem to be comfortable with. They can (and do) cross between the sections at will. One side I keep lit with red light 24/7 where the other is dark at night (both have daylight lighting). The red lit side is often the choice of night time activity and denning for the younger animals but as they age the dark side has been most frequently chosen (ambient lighting would impact any effect this would have in a public aquarium of course). Brooding is always on the night dark side. The disadvantage of this tank over my same length alternate is the jetting/swimming space and none of the animials I have kept in the tube tank would swim through the tubes (but very frequently change sides by crawling).
     
  4. cbarela

    cbarela Blue Ring Registered

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    I work for The Living Planet Aquarium and we are neck deep in designing our new aquarium which should open in Spring of 2013. I have always been disappointed in GPO displays and I really want to try something different here if we can. I hate the idea of a "cave" like tank with a Mr. Potatohead in it for enrichment. And you are right DWhatley... GPO probably do not come out of the water to hunt. Of course we could try it with a smaller tidal species that does. I just like the idea of a separate tank that can all kinds of caves and nooks that the GPO has to reach into and search around in. Something to keep that cephalopod brain active.
     
  5. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    If you can get an email for him, I would expect Jim Cosgrove to have some really good ideas. His book, Super Suckers The Giant Pacific Octopus and Other Cephalopods of the Pacific Coast is kind of general but reading through it with habitat in mind might initiate a thought or two. I don't have contact info for him but there are others that might or you may already have it through your facility.

    O. rubescens might be a good candidate for your out of water foraging idea. There are several YouTube videos of this little guy doing just that (here is a link to the most recent TONMO discussion and video). My one concerns would be the technology of keeping the water cold enough over an open area but I have no expertise in the area and it may be easier than I imagine. The display could be much smaller for this animal though so it might well be doable. The one thing I would suggest you rethink though is the idea of limited access. Why limit its foraging? The aquarium could still feed at specific times and only on one side but letting the animal roam has no real draw backs.
     
  6. gjbarord

    gjbarord Sepia elegans Staff Member Moderator

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    I always like hearing about new ideas such as these, even though I am not sure I would recommend designing a system so a GPO could crawl out of the tank into another tank. As mentioned, I do not believe this species behaves as such in the wild. Why not a simple acrylic tunnel to the "hunting tank" with a valve you can easily close and open? I think that might be more interesting and inviting to visitors to see such a large animal go through such a small tunnel.

    I do like D's idea about using a smaller octopus that does hunt and live in tide pools. That would be much easier to manage and maintain and you would be keeping the design of the system in line with the species biology and behavior.

    Let us know where you go with this!

    Greg
     
  7. cbarela

    cbarela Blue Ring Registered

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    I love the idea of a smaller tide pool octopus. And the exhibit is in a coastal gallery with an touch tidepool. I just got to talk husbandry into it...
    Anyone have any brilliant and ingenious ways to display a GPO that is exciting for both guests and cephalopod??
     
  8. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    humm, when I think about photos/videos I have seen of GPO's the ones that get my positive attention are all behind the scenes where the keeper is working from the top of the aquarium. I have seen one GPO tank (video from vid cam only) that was low to the ground (but too shallow IMO) where viewers could look over the top. The in situ pictures I have seen of dens are not on the sea floor but always appear to be elevated. I am envisioning something like a round tank with an elevated, wheel chair friendly ramp where the rampway provides an opaque area around part of the side walls. Viewing would be from above with possibly with one full viewing "window" in part of the ramp? Having opaque, artificial sides might also let you play with red lighting in a den area. The den could be illuminated with red lights outside the aquarium but inside a dark rockwork den and viewed from the opposite side from the lighting. It does not add to your enrichment ideas but I kind of like it for both viewing and animal comfort. You might think about a runway into the middle of the top for feeding that might also work for lighting effects.
     
  9. gjbarord

    gjbarord Sepia elegans Staff Member Moderator

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    The Seattle Aquarium has a free standing exhibit for its GPOs with few areas that the public cannot view. But it also has enough structure and hiding places for the specimens if they want to use it. I may have the details off a bit, but I believe they have two larger holding tanks that are connected with acrylic and there is a GPO in each tank. I think the acrylic tubing connecting the tanks may be able to be closed or opened (not sure though).

    A free-standing system requires more space than a wall system but I think it is the best way to display GPOs for the public.

    Greg
     

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