Daring Octopus Escape You Have To See To Believe

Published April 13, 2016
Updated January 16, 2018

Prone to feeling claustrophobic? Then perhaps you can understand the predicament of the giant Pacific octopus above. But what you won’t be able to understand is how, after finding itself stuck on a fishing boat, that octopus somehow escapes via a tiny hole in the boat’s side.

When making quick escapes like that, it also helps not to have a skeleton. Octopuses (yes, that’s a correct pluralization, too) have no external or internal shell or skeleton — except for their hard, parrot-like beaks — which gives them the creepy, though useful, ability to squeeze through tiny cracks and crevices.

They can free themselves from closed jars and even walk on land. If there’s an opening in their aquarium enclosures, they aren’t likely to stick around — as happened earlier today in New Zealand with an octopus named Inky.

Inky, who was donated by local fishermen, broke out of its enclosure and then made its way into a seawater runoff pipe, which ejected it back into its natural habitat.

Those astounded by Inky’s vanishing act think it might have to do with his inquisitive nature.

“I don’t think he was unhappy with us, or lonely, as octopus are solitary creatures,” said Rob Yarrell, the manager of the National Aquarium of New Zealand. “But he is such a curious boy. He would want to know what’s happening on the outside.”

The aquarium has no plans to recapture Inky. Given that octopuses swim using “jet propulsion,” it’s not hard to see that once they escape, they stay gone.

In fact, reports of an octopus escape like the one today are relatively common. In March 2015, an octopus named Ink made a similar attempt at the Seattle Aquarium. A staff member chalked it up to the octopus just “exploring his boundaries.”

According to Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor Guy Levy, who published a study last year in Current Biology on the octopus’ arm coordination, these animals are able to crawl because of their muscular and flexible arms (not tentacles), which act as though they have an “infinite number of joints.”

“The octopus, as usual,” Levy told Live Science, “surprised us. We found very unique things that we don’t see in other animals.”

Indeed, what other animal could possibly make these kinds of escapes?

Next, check out the ghost octopus that recently confounded scientists, and the unbelievable mimic octopus that can make itself look like a number of other sea creatures..

Elisabeth Sherman
Elisabeth Sherman is a writer living in Jersey City, New Jersey. She holds a Master's in writing from Columbia University, and her work has appeared in Food & Wine, The Guardian, Yahoo, BBC, HuffPost, VICE, MSN, and Vulture.