Giant Pacific octopus

Giant Pacific Octopus

Enteroctopus dofleini


This master of camouflage can quickly change the color and texture of its skin.

Exhibit Name and Location:
Baltimore - Surviving Through Adaptation

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Giant Pacific Octopus

All About Octopuses

Did you know? October 8 through 12 are Cephalopod Awareness Days, and October 8 is (the 10th annual) World Octopus Day!

Octopuses (yes, THAT is the correct plural of octopus) are cephalopods—a class name derived from the Greek word cephalopoda, meaning “head-feet.” These incredibly unique animals are characterized by their bilateral symmetry, a body shape that primarily includes a large head and set of arms or tentacles.

Out of the 800 identified living species of cephalopods, 300 are octopuses! Here at the Aquarium, we have a giant Pacific octopus on exhibit. We spoke to Aquarist Katie Webster about what it’s like to care for it:


Octopus Infographic 

Octopus Infographic Preview
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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.



Octopus Facts


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 suggests these giant invertebrates can reach more than 30 feet (9.1 m) across and weigh 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).

It ranges 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 kilograms) 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

To encourage cognitive thinking and natural hunting behaviors, the octopus is given a container with food inside. The octopus opens the container quickly, using more than 1,800 suction cups that help it locate and taste the item inside.

Holly Bourbon
Curator of Large Fish Exhibits/Diving Safety Officer

pressroom striped fish

As the curator of large fish exhibits, Holly's day-to-day responsibilities include managing our staff of Aquarists and making sure that all of the animals under our care are doing well! Learn More

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