The blue-ringed octopuses are three octopus species. They live in tide pools and coral reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, from Japan to Australia. They are recognized as some of the world’s most venomous marine animals. Despite their small size and relatively docile nature, they can prove a danger to humans. They can be recognized by their characteristic blue and black rings and yellowish skin. When the octopus is agitated, the brown patches darken dramatically, and iridescent blue rings or clumps of rings appear and pulsate within the maculae. Typically 50-60 blue rings cover the dorsal and lateral surfaces of the mantle. They hunt small crabs, hermit crabs, and shrimp, and may bite attackers, including humans, if provoked.
An individual blue-ringed octopus tends to use its dermal chromatophore cells to camouflage itself until provoked, at which point it quickly changes color, becoming bright yellow with blue rings or lines. The blue-ringed octopus spends much of its life hiding in crevices. Like all octopuses, it can change its shape easily, which helps it to squeeze into crevices much smaller than itself. This helps safeguard the octopus from predators and it may even pile up rocks outside the entrance to its lair. In common with other octopuses, the blue-ringed octopus swims by expelling water from its hyponome in a form of jet propulsion. If the blue-ringed octopus loses one of its eight arms, it can regenerate it within six weeks.
The blue-ringed octopus diet generally consists of small crabs and shrimp, but they may also feed on fish if they can catch them. The blue-ringed octopus pounces on its prey, seizing it with its arms and pulling it towards its mouth. It uses its horny beak to pierce through the tough exoskeleton, releasing its venom. The venom paralyzes the muscles required for breathing and movement. The octopus then rips away part of the shell with its beak and sucks out the flesh from the crustacean’s exoskeleton.
The mating ritual for the blue-ringed octopus begins when a male approaches a female and begins to caress her with his modified arm. A male mates with a female by grabbing her , which sometimes completely obscures the female’s vision, then transferring sperm packets by inserting his hectocotylus into her mantle cavity repeatedly. Mating continues until the female has had enough, and in at least one species the female has to remove the over-enthusiastic male by force. Males will attempt copulation with members of their own species regardless of sex or size, but interactions between males are most often shorter in duration and end with the mounting octopus withdrawing the hectocotylus without packet insertion or struggle.
Blue-ringed octopus females lay only one clutch of about 50 eggs in their lifetimes towards the end of autumn. Eggs are laid then incubated underneath the female’s arms for about six months, and during this process she does not eat. After the eggs hatch, the female dies, and the new offspring will reach maturity and be able to mate by the next year.
The blue-ringed octopus is 12 to 20 cm , but its venom is powerful enough to kill humans. No blue-ringed octopusantivenom is available yet, making it one of the deadliest reef inhabitants in the ocean.
The octopus produces venom containing tetrodotoxin, histamine, tryptamine, octopamine, taurine, acetylcholine, and dopamine.