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Octopus rubescens - Red octopus

Geographic range:
Eastern Pacific Ocean from Mexico to Alaska.

Key features:
The octopus has an ink sack, opening near the anus, from which it can discharge a dense, sepia-colored fluid, creating a smoke screen, and it can also change its color patterns to become concealed in its surroundings.

Similar species:
Octopus dofleini -- Giant pacific octopus

kelp forest
Octopus rubescens - Red octopus image


Primary common name:
Red octopus
  ITIS code:
Synonymous name(s):
General grouping:
Squid and octopus

Geographic Range
Range description:
Eastern Pacific Ocean from Mexico to Alaska. Alaska to Scammon\'s Lagoon, Baja Cali-fornia and in the Gulf of California. O. rubescens is the most common small intertidal octopus in some areas (especially northern California).
Northern latitude extent:
  Southern latitude extent:
East longitude extent:
  West longitude extent:

Intertidal Height
Lowest intertidal height:
0 meters OR 0 feet
  Highest intertidal height:
0 meters OR 0 feet
Intertidal height notes:

Subtidal Depth Range
Minimum depth:
0 meters OR 0 feet
  Maximum depth:
1000 meters OR 300 feet
Subtidal depth notes:

kelp forest
Habitat notes:
O. rubescens reside in kelp beds (juveniles often washed ashore in kelp hold-fasts), rocky areas, sandy mud bottoms, under stones on low intertidal; ranges from the intertidal zone to a depth of 1000 feet (300 meters).

Relative abundance:
Common offshore in kelp beds or on bottoms of sandy mud to depths of 200 m; occasio-nally under stones in low intertidal zone; juveniles often washed ashore in kelp holdfasts; the commonest small octopus in shallow subtidal waters from Alaska to Baja California.

Species Description
General description:
The red octopus, Octupus rubescens, has a dorsal mantle length of 5-10 cm (2-4 in.); a round to ovid, dull red or reddish brown often mottled with white. Ocelli ab-sent; skin papillate, often with cirri; arms about 4 times body length, the sixth pairs of suckers enlarged on all but ventral arms of males; ink reddish brown; eggs small (3-4 mm x 1.5-2 mm), the capsules with long stalks twisted into cords, laid in festoons. Elaborate head and camera-like image forming eyes, and a well developed nervous system and re-sulting complex behavior. is highly motile and predatory. Their foot is rolled into the muscular siphon used in jet propulsion. Grasping arms surround the beaked mouth. The shell usually is reduced or absent. Blood moves through an extensive closed circulatory system. Members of the Order Octopoda are mostly noc-turnal and fond of hiding in dens, which range from rocky crevices to gastropod shells to kelp holdfasts, and can often be identified by the nearby carapaces of the octopus' prey.
Distinctive features:
O. rubescens has the largest and most complex brain, as well as the best eyes, of any invertebrate. The Octopus can also move rapidly over sand or rocks by the use of its arms and suckers; but in open water its arms trail away from the direction of motion with an efficient streamlined effect, as it propels itself backwards with powerful jets of water from its siphon tube. The octopuses themselves are difficult to find, because of their reclusive tendencies, they are masters of camouflage, quick to match any back-ground. Their swift color and pattern changes are made possible by a network of pigment sacs (cromatophores), reflective platelets (iridophores), and refractive platelets (leuco-phores) in the skin, as well as superficial muscles that permit texture control.
Length: up to 50 cm (20 in.) Weight: about 1 lb. (16 oz.)

Natural History
General natural history:
Octopus eyes are very similar to vertebrate eyes, with retinas, pupils and lenses. Although they have very good eyesight, they use smell and touch to find food; with thousands of chemical receptors, and millions of texture receptors, which line the rims of their suckers. Octopi scour the sandy seafloor, flushing out small prey, or crawl in and out of rocky areas, hunting crab and shrimp. Red octopi live for roughly two years. They start life as larvae in the shallow subtidal and intertidal zones, spending a short time as drifting plankton. They later change into adult form, before settling as juveniles on kelp holdfasts. Finally, they migrate farther offshore, where they settle on sandy mud sea bottoms. According to researchers who explore Monterey Canyons with an ROV's (remotely op-erated vehicles), red octopi are the most common animals found along the continental shelf, around depths of 600 feet (183 m). Red octopi mate in late winter and early spring, before moving into the intertidal area where spawning takes place. Females protect and groom their eggs until the larvae hatches six to eight weeks later. Then the females die; while the males die soon after mating. Octopi are highly developed marine mollusks. They have three hearts; one that pumps blood through the body, and two more to pump blood through its gills. Researchers consider octopi to be the most intelligent invertebrates, possibly as intelligent as house cats. A red octopus's normal color is actually reddish brown, but like other octopuses it can change, in a fraction of a second, to brown, yellow, red, white, or a variety of mottled colors. In order to defend themselves and for social signaling (such as courting), octopus-es change their color patterns to that which contrasts with their surroundings. Camouflag-ing themselves, octopuses can change to color patterns, which blend to their surroundings. They can also alter their skin texture, to match the surface of smooth or rough rocks, or sand. An octopus typically forages at night, collecting multiple specimens before re-treating to its den, where it dines in comfort. An octopus deposits shells that are empty, outside its den in a pile, called an "octopus's garden."
Various bass (Paralabrax spp.), rockfishes (Sebastodes spp.), California sea lions, and the common seal.
Mollusks, fishes, and Crustaceans, they especially seem to prefer small crabs and hermit crabs.

Feeding behavior
Feeding behavior(s):
Feeding behavior notes:
One common method this animal uses for hunting is to lie quietly under rocks and then dart out to capture passing fish or crustaceans. Captured prey are quickly subdued by po-tent, paralyzing venom and then opened at the junction between carapace and abdomen with the strong, beaklike jaws, which are normally hidden inside the mouth opening. Aquarium specimens have been known to drill and eat a variety of gastropods. In the field, small crabs and hermit crabs seem to be preferred. After the viscera are eaten, the legs are pulled off and cleaned out one by one. If the prey is a snail, the octopus drills a hole in the snail's shell with its radula and injects a chemical that dissolves the snail's flesh from its shell.
August - September  
The octopus's method of reproduction is decidedly unique. At breeding time one arm of the male enlarges and is modified as a copulatory organ. From the generative orifice he charges this arm with a packet of spermatozoa, which he deposits under the mantle skirt of the female. A part of the arm is detached, and carried around in the mantle cavity of the female until fertilization takes place, often several days. The detached arm was for-merly thought to be a separate animal that was parasitic in the female cephalopod. Fe-males guard egg clusters intertidally or shallow subtidally from late spring through early winter in rocky areas. Breeding peaks, are in August and September. Young octopi hatch within 6-8 weeks, spending a brief time in the plankton, and later settle as juveniles with-in the kelp beds. Large individuals migrate farther offshore to sandy mud bottoms. Dur-ing late spring, they mate in deep water, and then later move inshore.
Carlton, J.T. 2007.
The Light and Smith Manual, 4th edition
Intertidal Invertebrates from Central California to Oregon
University of California Press. 1001 p.

Langstroth, L. and L. Langstroth. 2000. A Living Bay: The Underwater World of Monterey Bay. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA. 287 p.

Meinkoth, N.A. 1998. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures. A.A. Knopf, New York, NY. 813 p.

Morris, R.H., D.P Abbott, and E.C. Haderlie. 1980. Intertidal Invertebrates of California. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 690 p.

Ricketts, E. F., J. Calvin, and J.W. Hedgpeth. 1985. Between Pacific tides. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA. 652 p.

Monterey Bay Aquarium. Online Field Guide, 2008.
Accessed [04/27/06]
Accessed 01/30/2009 for Pelagic Cormorant
Accessed 8/19/09 for Bryozoan
Accessed 7/31/09 for Spiny brittle star
Accessed 3/31/09 for Sunflower star
Accessed 8/9/09 for red octopus
Accessed 8/19/09 for Decorator crab
Accessed 7/31/09 for warty sea cucumber

Data supplied by SIMoN Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Anthopleura xanthogrammica - Giant green anemone

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