Giant Pacific octopus

Giant Pacific Octopus

Enteroctopus dofleini


The octopus can quickly change the color and texture of its skin to match its surroundings.

Exhibit Name and Location:
Washington - National Marine Sanctuaries and National Parks Gallery

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Giant Pacific Octopus

Octopuses are mollusks, related to squid, clams, and snails.

Like squid, they are cephalopods, meaning ‘head-foot’, so named because the feet (arms) are attached to the head.

The bulbous sack-like body, or mantle, is perched atop the head; the mouth and beak are on the underside, where the arms converge.

Octopuses have a highly developed brain and acute vision.

These masters of camouflage can quickly change the color and texture of their skin to match the background.

By rapidly drawing water into the mantle and expelling it through the tube-like siphon, they can jet themselves backward, away from danger.


Newly hatched octopuses are small enough to be part of the plankton (small, microscopic organisms), so their food is equally small—copepods and larval crabs and seastars.

Adults feed on crabs, clams, snails, small fishes, and even other octopuses.

The octopus typically pounces on its target, enveloping it with its inter-arm webbing and using its beak to break open hard-shelled prey.


This is the largest species of octopus in the world.

While common lore refers to these giant invertebrates reaching more than 30 feet (9.1 m) across and weighing more than 600 pounds (272 kg), more reliable reports put the record holder at 400 pounds (182 kg) with an arm span of 25 feet (7.6 m).


The giant Pacific octopus is common to the intertidal zone to depths of nearly 2,500 feet (750 m).

They range from southern California, northward along the coast of North America, across the Aleutian Islands, and southward to Japan.

Population Status

This octopus is common throughout its range. However, larger specimens (over 100 pounds, or 45.4 kg) are seldom seen, suggesting changes in population health or age composition.


Many young, larval octopuses are lost to predators.

Only the largest fish (such as halibut and ling cod) and marine mammals are any threat to adults.

Humans collect the giant Pacific octopus for food, for display in aquariums, and for use as bait in other fisheries.

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A Note From the Caretaker

Octopuses are quite intelligent and require a lot of enrichment. One fun thing we like to do is stuff food into Mr. Potato Head and give it to the octopus to allow it to figure out where the food is.