Why is my octo chewing off its tentacles?

Discussion in 'Octopus Care' started by Joe-Ceph, Sep 13, 2009.

  1. Joe-Ceph

    Joe-Ceph Haliphron Atlanticus Supporter

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    I recently caught a wild bimac. this is the second wild bimac I've had, and the first one did great for over a year, so I have some experience. The new one appears to be full grown and I think it was already holed up, and in the final stage of its life, when I caught it. It has stayed hidden almost constantly and has grabbed, but then rejected all food for the three weeks I've had it. It came out for a minute last night, and I noticed the tips of three or four of its tentcles are missing the tips. I assume it has chewed them off, and I'm wondering what that signifies? What's the story about chewed off tentacles?
     
  2. Jean

    Jean Colossal Squid Supporter

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    If it's just the tips, it may be abrasion, stress or perhaps a bacterial or fungal infection, you really need to worry if it starts to chew them off near the web as this is most likely autophagy disease, which is fatal and highly contagious to other cephs.

    J
     
  3. robind

    robind O. bimaculoides Registered

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    How and where did you catch your bimacs? I live in santa cruz and hope to catch one, as well.
     
  4. Joe-Ceph

    Joe-Ceph Haliphron Atlanticus Supporter

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    Thanks Jean. It is just the tips. I suspect then that it is probably stress, given that I pulled an adult octopus from the wild and put in into an aquarium. It is holed up almost constantly (even after a month) and it is refusing food, so I suspect it is at the end of its natural life span. I'm planning to take it back and release it this week, and catch a young one if I'm lucky.

    p.s.: I'm conscious of the danger of introducing exotic diseases or parasites into the wild by releasing an animal that has been in a home aquarium. I have a strict policy of never introducing anything into my tank that didn't come from local ocean. NOTHING from the fish store; no live rock, no pre-mixed water, no livestock. I just want to point this out so that I don't get flamed, and so that others who keep local animals will be aware of the danger, and either keep a clean tank, like me, or refrain from releasing anything.
     
  5. Joe-Ceph

    Joe-Ceph Haliphron Atlanticus Supporter

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    I'm in so Cal, so the where and how could be different for you. I was lucky enough to find a local kid (on Tonmo) who lives near the beach and has become an expert octopus hunter by putting in the kind of time that only an obsessed kid with supportive parents can afford. If you can find a local who is in the know, see if they'll show you the ropes. Some fishermen like to use octopus as bait, so you can ask around at bait shops to see if they know where to look. My info may only apply down here, but I'll give you some tips:

    I think that you have two species of octopus up there, bimacs, and red octopus (Octopus rubescens). From what I've read rubescens makes a lousy pet (nocturnal and belligerent) so learn the difference and maybe leave those alone.

    Where: Find tide pools. Ideally you want places where at sufficiently low tide, there are flat rocky areas with water that is less than a foot deep. If you are really lucky the place will have lots of rocks that are small enough that you can tip them up on edge and see what's hiding under them. Study the table at the end of the California Dept of Fish and Game sport fishing regulations (download from HERE) and learn exactly where you are NOT allowed to fish. Every place not listed is legal to take an octopus from if you have a fishing license.

    When: Use an online tide predictor and find times during daylight hours when the tide will be sufficiently low in your area. November through January have lots of very low tides. I don't look unless the tide will be lower than -0.5 feet. You'll have a window of about 45 to 75 minutes before and after the time given in the tide predictor.

    How: Wear gloves so your hands don't get scratched up. Find rocks that are in shallow water (2" to 14") and gently tip them up on edge. If there is an octopus hiding under the rock it will probably try to hide under the edge of the rock which is now touching the sand. It may ink, and or it may jet away. Smaller octopus may be hiding in abandoned shells stuck to the underside of the rock, so look in those. You want to tip the rock as quickly as you can, but slowly enough so that you don't disturb the sand under the rock and make a cloud that you can't see into. It is very important to put the rock back where you found it, with the same side down, and in the same orientation. Tide pool animals have specific niches, and the environment under a rock is completely different from the environment on the side of, or the top of the same rock. Generally speaking, if you don't put the rock back just like it was, everything on it will die. The larger the rock is, the more likely it is to have an octopus under it. I like large flat rocks with lots of stuff growing on top of it. One reason I tip rocks on edge instead of flipping them over is that it may be very hard to flip a large heavy rock back over once it is upside down, and it may be hard to get it back in just the same spot. If you see an octopus when you tip the rock up, go ahead and flip it all the way over, so that you have both hands available to grab the octo, and so that, in your excitement, you don't let the rock fall back on you while you are grabbing. Also, If the rock is so big that you need help flipping it, or that you can barely do it yourself, you should probably leave it alone. You'll get worn out early, and the risk of getting hurt by a big heavy rock isn't worth it to me.

    Misc. Tips:
    Be sure to have your fishing license on you, and visible as required by law. You should also realize that most people who are at the tide pools will assume that what you are doing is illegal, and some of them may be nature-zealots who will threaten and harass you. Sometimes State Park rangers, who have the power to give you a ticket, don't know the laws either, so I recommend that you carry a few copies of the DFG code, and highlight the part under "Invertebrates" that says something like: "Nothing may be taken from the intertidal zone EXCEPT muscles, ... octopus, ..., clams, etc." You can use these to show the more reasonable people that confront you that what you are doing is legal. The true-believers will continue to verbally abuse you, undeterred by reality or common decency, so be mentally prepared for the possibility of meeting such a nut (I get accosted on about 1 out of 4 collecting trips :cry:)
     
  6. Stevie

    Stevie O. bimaculoides Supporter

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    I hope this is not what is going on, but mine followed the exact same pattern while rapidly approaching the end of its life. How is the color change going, is it losing pigment?
     
  7. robind

    robind O. bimaculoides Registered

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    Wow Joe! Thank you for the extremely informative post. Some of this I knew, but thank you for really fleshing it out! Obviously, I will post on tonmo if I have success.

    Also, in another thread someone warned me about releasing animals you'd caught back into the wild, due to the risk of disease as you mentioned. It occurs to me that I've added nothing live to my tank except snails from the local ocean. I have added bagged live sand, and I plan on adding some dead live rock that someone who's tank cracked gave to me. It's been soaking in RO water for a while now. Would either of these exclude me from your strategy of avoiding needless deaths due to captivity?
     
  8. bluespotocto

    bluespotocto Haliphron Atlanticus Registered

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    Hey cool i live in CA also. Where do you live? Maybe we can catch some Bimacs some time. I got a good spot also.
     
  9. ceph

    ceph Wonderpus Staff Member Moderator

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    See the abstract below. While I am convinced that Autophagy can be caused by an infectious agent in octopuses, I am not convinced that it is the only cause. I think that Stress and possibly Senescence may also be primary causes.





    Autophagy in Octopus
    Author: Budelmann, B.U.

    Source: South African Journal of Marine Science, Volume 20, Number 1, December 1998 , pp. 101-108(8)

    Publisher: NISC Pty Ltd

    Abstract:

    Automutilation, specifically of the arms, is well known in some octopod species. It occurs in two forms, autotomy and autophagy. Autotomy of an arm is achieved by breaking off at a predetermined site, or by biting off by the animal itself. Biologically, autotomy is a meaningful behaviour. It is well known, e.g. in male Argonauta during reproduction; it has also been described in several octopod species as a survival strategy. Autophagy, in contrast, is more puzzling; it is distinct from cannibalism because the animals eat (parts of) their own arms. This paper is based on 161 cases of autophagy in Octopus vulgaris. Although the data are still limited, they indicate that autophagy is not caused by hunger or stress, but is an infectious, deadly disease. Incubation time is between one and two weeks; death occurs 1-2 days after autophagy starts. Some data suggest that autophagy is caused either by a (so far unknown) substance released by the animal itself or, more likely, by viruses or bacteria; these, in turn, seem to affect the nervous system. Stress (often thought to be the reason for autophagy) may contribute to it but it is not its primary cause.
    Document Type: Research article

    DOI: 10.2989/025776198784126502

    James

    PS Very helpful post on collecting - well written.
     
  10. Joe-Ceph

    Joe-Ceph Haliphron Atlanticus Supporter

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    I thought I should give you an update on my wild caught bimac and its arm chewing issues. I started this thread four months ago because the full grown wild bimac I had caught 3 weeks earlier was staying hidden, rejecting food, and had chewed the ends off of several of its arms. Well things got slowly better. It started eating, came out more and after two or three months the ends of it's arms had all grown back. it is still alive, and thriving. So what should I attribute the problems to? Could it have been at the end of it's life, but decided to come out of retirement? Is that possible? If not I guess it was just a month long adjustment period to captivity. I didn't "do" anything other than provide it with a stable safe place, and food supply. The tank temp is 60 F, which is colder than the ocean is this time of year. Could the temp change have caused either the problem or the extended life (assuming it was on the way out when I caught it)?
     
  11. DWhatley

    DWhatley Cthulhu Staff Member Moderator

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    I have wondered about tank temp as well. Not for reversing the senescent cycle but for possibly bring on the maturation of females early. In the case of Maya (Caribbean, warm water species), I am wondering if keeping my temps lower than her environment may have signalled the coming of the winter brooding season. Roy is more inclined to think over feeding than temp may promote the early on set of this phase.
     

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