Our newest exhibit is beautiful to behold. Visitors have been wonderstruck by the diversity of species, the colors, and the artistic elements, like the rock formations inside and the sculptural rails along the outside. You might be interested to know that as much care went into designing the exhibit behind the scenes — especially the giant Pacific octopus habitat.
|Exploring the new digs!|
You see, octopuses are strong, have flexible bodies and can learn and problem solve. Oh…and they have LOTS of suction cups. The giant Pacific octopus, like the ones in our new Olympic Coast Sanctuary exhibit, has over 2,000 of these sticky appendages! The octopus can taste and smell with the suckers and use them as a mode of transportation. If an octopus can grab hold and stick to a surface, the animal is strong enough to pull itself along, including in a vertical direction. This makes it possible for an octopus to climb over an exhibit wall.
|Close-up of the suction cups|
|Wilson (the human) playing with Sy (the octopus)|
In addition to the puzzles and enrichment, aquarists simply make sure the exhibit is designed in a way that doesn’t give the octopus any way to climb out anyway! Our past public exhibit had a large, heavy lid, one that the octopus couldn’t lift and thus prevented walkabouts. But with the new exhibit, aquarists were interested in keeping the top of the exhibit open for easier access. So what to do?
|The old exhibit—a heavy lid prevented wandering octopuses|
The first step to preventing a wandering octopus is to create enough distance between the water line and the top of the exhibit. Behind the scenes, there’s a tall wall enclosing the octopus tank. At close to 2.5 feet, that distance would be difficult for the octopus to move without water. Doors opening to the top of the exhibit are held closed by heavy latches. However, we took extra precautions and covered the tall wall and doors with a prickly material. What is this miracle octopus deterrent? Surprise…it’s AstroTurf!
|Strong latches keep the doors closed|
|A tall wall and door at the top of the exhibit|
|Covered in the green stuff|
|AstroTurf covering the door|