Sea Creature of The Week: Southern Blue-Ringed Octopus

Don’t let the vibrant blue rings of this octopus fool you. They’re incredibly venomous and are one of the most toxic animals in the world, being strong enough to kill a person. But don’t fret. They will only release their venom if they feel threatened by you. Otherwise, they aren’t typically aggressive. Luckily for us, the United States doesn’t have any octopuses, as they only range from the western Pacific to the Indian Ocean.

The Blue Ring Octopus or Hapalochlaena genus in the Cephalopods class has four different species. These octopus species are only about 8-10 inches in size. So how could a creature this tiny be so threatening? When alarmed, the octopus will flash their bright blue rings and use its venom to immobilize its prey in two different ways. Using their first venom gland, they bite their prey, usually consisting of crabs, and then inject the venom into that wound. From their second venom gland, they can release a cloud of venom into the water that, in turn, can enter through the gills of their prey. Medical and psychological research has been done on the venom these species produce since there is a tetrodotoxin neurotoxin found in the octopus’ venom. According to the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology, researchers are interested in the venom for its aphrodisiac effect and its ability to block voltage-sodium channels, so action potential in neurons is inhibited or reduced.

During the last assessment of the Blue-Ringed Octopus in July of 2014, the IUCN Threatened Species list assessed the global species of three of the Hapalochlaena genus as “Least Concern” since the octopus do not have an emphasis on conservation efforts as the species is still abundant in the wild and far from being listed as “Threatened.” The Hapalochlaena nierstraszi is listed as “Data Deficient” since only two specimens have been caught and described, and little information is known about them.

While certainly a beautiful creature, be sure to only admire it from afar if you ever find yourself along the coasts of the western Pacific or the Indian ocean.

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