Sunday, June 21, 2015

Octopus Invasion In New Zealand

Dunedin is about to experience a unique annual marine spectacle, as large octopuses arrive in droves to breed and die.
Octopus expert and marine scientist Dr Jean McKinnon said it was normal behaviour for the common octopus at this time of the year.
The animals only live for about two years - growing an armspan of up to 2m across in that time. 
Despite their imposing size and sharp beak they did not pose a threat to people because they were very shy, Dr McKinnon said.
''You would never tangle with one but they are curious, so when divers say 'oh, yeah, it grabbed me', what it is doing is going 'why are there bubbles?'.''
She has been studying octopuses and squid - both closely related to snails - since the late 1990s and said they were a vital cog in the food chain.
''If they are taken out quite often the whole food chain can collapse. We don't know a great deal about them but we go out and fish them anyway.''
She said an octopus had a similar level of intelligence to a clever dog.
The New Zealand Marine Studies Centre on Otago Harbour near Portobello has kept octopuses in a large tank in the past, releasing them when they reach breeding age. In December 2008 the aquarium's star attraction, Sid the Octopus, made a break for freedom and was on the run for five days before being found in the aquarium's drains.
''He was looking for a lady friend so we released him [in February 2009] but just coincidentally it was the day before Valentine's Day, so it made headlines.''
In another incident, the centre had to install a new lighting system after a female octopus learned how to turn the lights off.
''We had one that hated the lights and she accidentally learned that if she splashed them they would blow, so we couldn't keep the lights on any more.''
Department of Conservation biodiversity ranger Jim Fyfe said the octopus provided a valuable food source for sea lions, a critically threatened species.
The adult males ''pretty much rip them apart limb by limb, throwing them around''. 
That spectacle and washed up carcasses of octopus were easy to find because there would be a cloud of seagulls hovering overhead.

I need to follow this story to enjoy all the carnage. What a nice vacation spot it would be. Now if we could somehow eliminate them all before they can breed and the young can escape, we can deal a crippling blow to this entire generation of troublemakers. I can tell you many, many stories of octopus in captivity who mess with their handlers and other creatures just to benefit their finicky living demands. I act in much the same way - I get that - but I am the one at the TOP of the food chain so I am entitled.

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