10 Things an Octopus Can Do (That Should Terrify You)


In his 1896 short story The Sea Raiders, HG Wells describes a world where sentient octopuses and squid patrol the coast of Devon, England, feasting on human flesh. It’s one of the sci-fi master’s sillier stories. After all, how scary can a sea-based villain made of squishy stuff be?

The answer, it turns out, is: very. See, octopuses are nowhere near as cuddly as their reputation suggests. Since their reputation isn’t particularly cuddly to begin with, that last sentence should give you some idea of how extremely anti-cuddly they are. Far from being the oddly-shaped bozos of the sea, octopuses could well be the coming rulers of this planet. And we, for one, would like to welcome our new cephalopod overlords.

10. Mimicking Other Animals

Everyone thinks they know what an octopus looks like: a big, bulbous head with sleepy eyes and eight terrifying tentacles. Well, everyone is wrong. While most octopuses look like this, there are certain species that deviate from this pattern. One species deviates so wildly that it can take on the form of other marine animals.

As you can see in the video above, the mimic octopus does exactly what its name suggests. At a moment’s notice it can rearrange its body into a whole new shape, puffing up and turning purple, or even curling up and running along the ocean floor on what looks like legs. It’s currently known to mimic at least 19 different species, but who’s to say there aren’t others in its repertoire?

Why you should be scared: If octopuses can mimic other shapes, that means that anything could be an octopus. Your friends, your family, the strangers sitting around you right now…even you could be an octopus and not know it.

9. Dirty Psychological Tricks

Plenty of animals eat other animals without us writing fear-mongering articles about them. But the octopus is a little different. It doesn’t simply chase down and devour its prey like any self-respecting predator. No, the octopus is sneaky. The octopus employs dirty tricks. Some of which are kinda terrifying.

For an example, check out the above video. A shrimp is just minding his own business when he feels a tap on his right shoulder. Fearing danger, he immediately scoots left…right into the waiting maw of a hungry octopus. The eight-legged monster tricked him.

Why you should be scared: Although the shrimp trick is basic, it demonstrates an understanding of psychology in octopuses we’re not at all sure we like. After all, humans fall for the old ‘tap the other shoulder’ trick all the time. Imagine if next time that happens, you turn round not to see empty space, but the cold, dead eyes of a gigantic, hungry cephalopod.

8. Using Tools

Tool use is a sign of intelligence. For a long time, we thought it was unique to humans, although we’ve since witnessed primates and certain types of birds doing it. That’s understandable. Primates are extremely close to us humans, and types of crow have been shown to be as intelligent as 5-7 year old children.

What’s less understandable is seeing that sort of behavior arise in non-mammal sea creatures. Yet that’s exactly what we’ve witnessed octopuses doing.

Octopuses have been observed doing everything from using bits of wood to pry open clam shells, to opening child-proof jars. In the video above, one sneaky guy even grabs hold of two coconut shells and uses them to construct a makeshift shelter. Forget using tools, octopuses are now building freakin’ houses.

Why you should be scared: If they’re already using tools and building houses, how long will it be before they upgrade to spears, crossbows, and assault rifles? Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

7. They Can Walk on Land

Remember that HG Wells story we referenced in the introduction? One of the dumbest scenes involves the hero running up the beach as a bunch of octopuses jump out and run after him on their tentacles. It blows suspension of disbelief out the water…unless you happen to have watched the above video first. Not only are octopuses capable of moving around on land, apparently they do it all the time.

To be fair, this is only one specific species of octopus. Nonetheless, it’s still terrifying to watch. The aquatic monster uses his suckers to latch onto rocks and drag his shapeless, Cthulhu-like form between pools, feasting on any unwary prey that gets in his way. While that prey isn’t human yet, we’re betting it’s only a matter of time.

Why you should be scared: If octopuses can move on land, no one is safe. It’s like discovering Daleks can’t be defeated by stairs. The one defense you thought you had against the creatures of your nightmares turns out to be horrifyingly useless.

6. They Can Learn by Watching

Learning by watching is a pretty complex trait for an animal to possess. It involves not only the ability to logically process visual information, but also to then realize this information has real-world applications that will benefit you. Generally speaking, it’s the preserve of certain mammals, a couple of bird species…and the octopus.

As the above video shows, scientists have found octopuses copying the behavior of one another, and learning new skills in the process. Just as it would only take one expert human to teach a whole group of other humans how to set a trap or use a gun, octopuses can apparently share information on how to complete tasks. The moment one decides its task is ‘killing humans’ then we’re really in trouble.

Why you should be scared: Dear God, why wouldn’t you be? What happens when the first octopus figures out how to use an assault rifle or drive a car? What happens when the first octopus leaps out the ocean and fastens onto the nearest human face? We’ll be extinct before the week is up.

5. They Can Squeeze Through Virtually Any Gap

Picture the scene: the day of the great octopus uprising has come. As shape-changing, tool-wielding, land-walking octopuses swarm across the Earth you manage to take shelter in your car. You lock the door and stick the key in the ignition, desperately trying to ignore the tentacles flapping against the windows. The car starts, and just as you think you might just get away, you see the octopus squeezing in through the air ducts…

Thanks to their lack of a skeleton, octopuses can squeeze and contort their bodies in all sorts of strange ways. This means they can get through virtually any gap. In lab settings, this means they have an annoying habit of escaping down drains. When the octopus-apocalypse comes, it means none of us will be safe.

Why you should be scared: Even zombies can be stopped by a jail cell door or a chain link fence. No such luck with octopuses. If your hiding spot has even a single one-inch hole, you’ll be octopus food.

4. They Have Super Strength

Just because they’re squishy and can squeeze through gaps doesn’t mean octopuses are a pushover. Those tentacles of theirs are outlandishly strong. How strong? Check the above video. That’s a fully grown male human diver at the peak of physical fitness, surrounded by other helping humans. And even he can’t escape the death-like grip of one angry octopus.

Time and again, evidence has shown that octopuses are powerful enough for acts of extreme brutality. There are reports out there of lone octopuses taking on sharks and winning. That’s right: even the ocean’s most-perfect killing machine can get its ass handed to it by an octopus. If you’re faced with the choice of battling one of two marine creatures and the shark seems like the safer option, you know the other creature has to be an absolute badass.

Why you should be scared: If you thought you could fight off a crowd of marauding octopuses, you were wrong. All it would take is for one of them to drag you into its cold embrace, and the world will never hear from you again.

3. Their Brains are Legitimately Freaky (and Freakishly Intelligent)

The last time humans and octopuses shared a common ancestor was some 750 million years ago. The Rodina supercontinent was still around, the Cambrian explosion of lifeforms had yet to take place, and even dinosaurs were still several hundred million years away. It’s likely that ancestor was little more than a worm with freaky eyespots, so it should come as no surprise to learn octopus brains are extremely different from mammal or bird brains. What might freak you out, though, is just how different they are.

Rather than being contained in one area, like ours are, octopus brains are spread out across their body. They have one ‘central’ brain in the head section, and then a sort of backup brain in each tentacle, plus another behind their eyes. This isn’t just like spreading their one brain out. Each of these functions as a legitimately different brain. This means octopus tentacles can move independently of one another, without first having to fire any signals to the central brain to get its OK. It would be if like your arms could move all by themselves, sometimes letting you in on their plans, sometimes coordinating with one another, and sometimes just going solo. It’s a form of intelligence that’s utterly alien to our own, and really kinda creepy.

Why you should be scared: Even headshots won’t kill these monsters. In countries where people eat live octopus, it’s not unknown for the tentacles to keep attacking the eater, even after the head has been chewed up and swallowed.

2. They are Capable of Cannibalism

On the surface, this should be a good thing. Octopuses are solitary animals that don’t have families or long-term mates or anything like that. They’re so solitary that when they see other octopuses, they frequently attack and eat them. While this should be good news for the fledgling human resistance, we’re going to politely disagree. The fact that octopuses eat their own is legitimately terrifying.

Think about it. If a creature is so badass that it will eat its own kind not just when it needs to but because it simply feels like it, what possible hope do we have? There’s no mercy with a creature like that. No chance to beg it to spare your spouse, your parents, your children. No chance to plead with it for even a modicum of understanding. As far as the octopus is concerned, you’re simply another source of food. When the uprising comes, there will be no mercy.

Why you should be scared: We shun cannibalism for a reason. This is that horrifying reason.

1. They Bear Grudges

So far in this article, you may have gotten the impression that we’re talking about the octopus uprising like it’s a far off thing. Something that will be accomplished when octopuses evolve higher intelligence or something like that.

Well, we’re here to tell you that’s not the case. Octopuses already have the ability, brainpower, and sheer demonic personalities to take over the world. You can see this in the fact that octopuses have already learned to bear grudges against certain humans.

An article in the nature-based Orion Magazine not so long ago recounted the story of a female worker at an octopus aquarium. One male giant Pacific octopus named Truman took a dislike to her and would squirt water whenever she was near, soaking her. After a while, she (understandably) quit. Months passed. Truman didn’t soak a single other person. Then, nearly a year later, the woman returned for a visit. Truman immediately drenched her.

Why you should be scared: If an octopus can hold a grudge against a mere lab worker for a year, imagine what it would do to someone it had a reason to hate? Say, a species that was famous for eating live octopuses. A species that was destroying its habitat through pollution and global warming. A species that thought it was the number one predator on Earth.

What we’re trying to say is the octopuses are coming for you. And there’s nothing you can do to stop them.

With the octopus apocalypse looming, it's time for you to start preparing.
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  1. I find it slightly disturbing that you would liken an octopus to a zombie not once, but twice!