Friday, November 9, 2012

An idiot, full of sound and fury.


On November 15th last year, I posted the story below about my first encounter with an octopus, which was exactly this size. As you might imagine, my heart broke when I read this recent story online. What I really don't get is what makes us strut and pound our chests over taking the life of the largest fish, the oldest elk, or an 80-pound Pacific giant octopus. How demeaning to our status as humans that we have among us the likes of this young man.

 http://www.grindtv.com/outdoor/blog/40201/divers+capture+of+a+beloved+giant+pacific+octopus+sparks+outrage/

"If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans." James Herriot
 

 


When I was 15 my parents took me and my sister on our first vacation ever. We lived in Winter Park, north of Orlando. The vacation was to Clearwater Beach on the Gulf of Mexico. I remember two things about that vacation: my sister had a shrimp cocktail and a hot fudge sundae at the Columbia restaurant in Ibor City then threw up on the drive home. The other was finding a baby octopus on the floor of the car. The baby octopus looked like a tiny mobile clump of wet sand. It came out of a what we thought was an empty conch shell we'd picked up on the beach, and would never have noticed it if it hadn't crawled out (in search of water, no doubt) and across my mother's foot.

 It died, of course.

All my life--to that point--I'd collected small dead animals and kept them in jars of alcohol. I had quite a collection by the time the baby octopus was added: snakes, lizards, baby turtles, newly hatched birds. This rather morbid curiosity about animals eventually led me to pursue a degree in biology where it was a perfectly acceptable practice to collect and preserve dead things.
I don't know what happened to my dead animal collection. I'm sure my mother put ever jar in the trash the same day I moved to Miami, but since finding that baby octopus, I've loved them. Yesterday, someone sent me this amazing video. As they say, It's awesome!

 http://www.sciencefriday.com/videos/watch/10397


North Pacific Giant Octopus
 


  
Octopus opening a jar with a screw lid

From Wikipedia

"Octopuses are highly  intelligent, likely more so than any other order of invertebrates. The exact extent of their intelligence and learning capability is much debated among biologists, but maze and problem-solving experiments have shown that they show evidence of a memory system that can store both short- and long-term memory. It is not known precisely what contribution learning makes to adult octopus behavior.
In laboratory experiments, octopuses can be readily trained to distinguish between different shapes and patterns. They have been reported to practice observational learning, although the validity of these findings is widely contested on a number of grounds. Octopuses have also been observed in what some have described as play: repeatedly releasing bottles or toys into a circular current in their aquariums and then catching them. Octopuses often break out of their aquariums and sometimes into others in search of food. They have even boarded fishing boats and opened holds to eat crabs."


"A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellow man, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help."
Albert Schweitzer

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