Curled octopus

Curled Octopus

Latin name: Eledone cirrhosa
Global Distribution: From Norway South to the Mediterranean.
UK Distribution: All British and Irish coasts
Size: Approximately 50cm
Diet: Crabs, other large crustaceans, fish
Habitat: Rocky coastal areas
Sources: Grisley, M.S., Boyle, P.R. and Key, L.N. (1996) Eye puncture as a route of entry for saliva during predation on crabs by the octopus Eledone cirrhosa (Lamarck). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 202: 225 – 237.

The curled octopus, also known as the lesser octopus, is very elusive, spending most of the day hiding between rocks and in crevices, it curls up its tentacles when at rest. Like most octopuses it can release an inky dark fluid from its body when it feels threatened. The fluid makes the water dark which confuses and disorientates predators allowing the octopus to escape from danger.  It belongs to the cephalopods (meaning ‘head-footed’), a group of bilaterally symmetrical molluscs that contain the octopuses, squid and cuttlefish. It is probably the most intelligent of all invertebrates.

The word octopus derives from the Greek word for ‘eight-footed’.  It is about 50cm across the widest span of its arms and is identifiable by the single row of suckers on its arms in contrast to the common octopus which has two. It has a yellowish or reddish coloured body with rusty brown patches and a whitish underside. The skin is covered with very fine, closely-set granulations interspersed with wart-like bumps. Eight powerful tentacle arms are used for catching prey and for crawling on surfaces.  The head is large and has a beaked-shaped jaw and two big eyes. The curled octopus is an active predator, feeding mainly on crustaceans, molluscs and other invertebrates as well as fish.

Fun facts:

  • When feeding on crabs, the curled octopus immobilises its prey by puncturing its eye or boring the shell carapace and injecting toxins into the body of the crab which paralysis it. The digestive enzymes contained in the saliva of the octopus break down the muscle within the crab’s body, allowing the carapace to be easily removed.