Octopuses which can solve puzzles and pass themselves off as dangerous sea creatures to deter predators are the stars of a new display at Blackpool Sea Life Centre.
The centre’s new feature exhibition Octopus Hideout, opened to visitors today.
And it could scarcely have chosen a more appropriate day than Valentine’s Day as the octopuses and cuttlefish which make up the display each have three hearts, two of which operate their gills while a third uses a copper-based protein to pump blood around the rest of the body, meaning they have a greeny-blue blood.
A Giant Pacific Octopus, the world’s biggest, is the star billing, but the line-up also includes a common octopus, a mimic octopus and cuttlefish.
The Giant Pacific and the common are two of the smartest animals in the marine world. Both can solve puzzles and negotiate complex problems - like opening a lunch box in order to grab their lunch.
There was even a case of a common octopus in Germany using a carefully aimed jet of water to fuse a particular light bulb it was unhappy with - while Paul the Octopus, also a common octopus shot to fame in Germany in 2008 by correctly predicting international football results by choosing between two lunchboxes bearing the flags of the competing teams.
The mimic octopus, meanwhile, is a master of disguise, able to pass itself off as a sea snake, lionfish and other dangerous species to avoid predators.
The exhibition line-up is completed by the most prehistoric member of the octopus family, the nautilus, an octopus-in-a-shell which has barely changed in more than 500 million years.
The spiral-shaped ‘ammonites’ regularly unearthed by fossil-hunters are its ancient relatives.
Blackpool Sea Life displays supervisor, Scott Blacker, said: “Most octopuses like to make themselves as inconspicuous as possible by curling up in a convenient hidey-hole or crevice.
“Our new displays are designed to allow them the illusion of privacy while enabling visitors to spy on them.
“Even so, their camouflage is so good there will be occasions when visitors will have to search very carefully - but that’s just part of the fascination with these amazing creatures.”
Scott and his Sea Life colleagues across the UK believe octopuses are so fascinating and intelligent they are campaigning to get them taken off seafood menus.