A curious member of the world’s largest octopus species recently got very friendly with a diver in Canada, engulfing her in a tentacley embrace that was captured in an amazing video.
On October 15, teacher and scuba diver Andrea Humphreys was diving with friends in the ocean off the coast of British Columbia, near the city of Campbell River. One diver had never seen an octopus before, so the crew set out to observe one in its natural habitat. Luckily, they didn’t have to search for long, as within three minutes they stumbled across a giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) just chilling in plain sight.
“Typically, when we find octopuses, they are in their dens, so like hiding in little cracks, crevices, under rocks and open logs. So, to have it sitting out in the open was pretty rare,” Humphreys, who has completed over 675 dives over 12 years, told the Vancouver Sun.
Then the hugs began.
The big friendly giant sidled up to another member of the group before it set its sights on Humphreys. She estimates that the distance between the creature’s tentacles was around 3 meters (9.8 feet). This species generally grows to a size between 2.97 and 4.88 meters (9.75 and 16 feet), with the largest specimen on record reaching 9.14 meters (30 feet).
“It was just crawling on my camera, crawling on my lips, giving me a hug. These huge tentacles were up over my face and mask,” Humphreys told The Guardian. “Every time I backed away from it, the octopus just kept coming towards me. And it was just so amazing and inspiring.”
The inquisitive cephalopod kept vibing with the divers for around 40 minutes, with Humphreys saying that it “kept changing the lights on my camera system and fiddling with it”. On her Instagram, she revealed that it interacted with her at least six times, and stated that “yes I did end up with an octopus hickey!!”
Octopuses can actually taste using their suckers. A 2020 study on California two-spot octopuses (Octopus bimaculoides) in the journal Cell found sensory cells in the suckers, with the authors stating that “Octopuses explore the seafloor with their flexible arms using a specialized ‘taste by touch’ system to locally sense and respond to prey-derived chemicals and movement.”
One commenter on Youtube asked: “Any theories about what was happening here? A little taste to see if you'd make a good lunch perhaps?” Humphreys responded: “Theories include mating season, curiosity, and maybe hungry but it was never what I would call aggressive.”
Octopuses can change color to blend in with their surroundings or even to indicate their mood. A recent study has even observed that gloomy octopuses (Octopus tetricus) displaying aggression-related coloring were more likely to hurl debris at others of their species.
When another Youtube commenter asked how Humphreys knew the creature had good intentions, she responded that “The colour of the mantle and body is a pretty good indicator. If it turns white then it's upset or angry. Red is the normal color.”
As for whether the muffled squeaks are due to her being scared of the approaching mass of tentacles, Humphries clarified in another comment that “Actually I wasn't, I was SO excited!! A little nervous maybe!”