Eight arms are never enough!
Some vacationers are surprised to hear that we have octopuses living in our Emerald Coast waters. When I go diving or snorkeling, many times I see them along the rocks or jetties. The best way to find them is to look for seafood remains outside a crevice or hole. They like to eat crabs, oysters and clams and leave the shells piled up outside their den.
Sometimes you will find an octopus in your pocket or scuba gear after diving or snorkeling as they love small, dark places. This gives them protection against predators such as grouper and amberjack, and helps them to hide from their prey, making them easier to ambush.
Octopuses found in the Gulf of Mexico typically range in size of a quarter to well over the size of a basketball. Like many creatures that live in the ocean, they follow a certain mathematical pattern of growth known as the Fibonacci sequence. Most species grow in patterns of 3, 5 or 8 and an octopus has eight arms.
The intelligence of an octopus is fascinating. These creatures have chromatophores that help them change colors at any given time. They communicate through color changes in their skin and not vocally. They can change colors from a creamy white to a dark rust color in a matter of seconds. While in captivity, they can be taught all kinds of different tricks similar to that of a dog. They are thought to be the smartest invertebrate in the world.
Due to their small size in our region, octopuses are relatively harmless to humans. So, next time you’re swimming at the Destin jetties or the Saint Andrews outlet in Panama City Beach, look for a den in the water with shells and crab parts littered all around. You may just discover a hiding octopus yourself!