It's been said that selfies kill more people than sharks. In a bid to catch an unmissable photo-op, people can often have a momentary lapse in judgment, which is a very dangerous thing to do when you're out in the natural world. Case in point: do not put a baby octopus on your face in the hopes of bagging a photography competition.
Jamie Bisceglia, the owner of fishing company South Sound Salmon Sisters on Washington state's Fox Island, was out on her boat enjoying a fishing derby on August 2 when she noticed a nearby boat had caught an octopus, most likely a young giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) or a Pacific red octopus (Octopus rubescens). As reported by local NBC affiliate King 5, she asked them if she could take the young octopus to eat for dinner, but then remembered the fishing derby was also holding a photo competition.
“I thought this was pretty cool. It was a gorgeous, exotic creature,” Bisceglia told King 5. “I put it on my face and said ‘Take my picture!’”
In the moments after the first photo was taken, the octopus sank its beaked into her chin – twice.
“It was like a barbed hook going into my skin,” she said.
Octopuses might look like a rubbery bunch of soft tissue and squishiness, but they are armed with a sharp beak made from cross-linked proteins and chitin, the main component of crustacean and insect exoskeletons. Just like a parrot's beak, they are tough and can snap in a scissor-like fashion.
Octopuses are also equipped with dozens of sucker pads along their tentacles, which meant Bisceglia struggled the pull the octopus off her face. Eventually, she managed to do so, but she was left profusely bleeding from her chin for at least 30 minutes.
Despite being in a considerable amount of pain, she put off going to the hospital because she wanted to go to another fishing derby on the following day. She managed to make it to that event, but after waking up on Sunday morning with further swelling to her face and difficulty swallowing, she decided to go to the hospital. By complete coincidence, the doctor who treated her even had a tattoo of a blue-ringed octopus on his arm.
Surprisingly, all octopuses are venomous. Although most are not dangerous to humans, the greater blue-ringed octopus is among the most venomous known creatures and can administer a potent neurotoxin that's easily capable of killing a fully grown human. However, unless provoked – like slapping one of them on your face – octopus attacks are relatively rare.
Bisceglia now hopes to use her experience to teach people to show some respect for nature, especially when it comes to our super-smart cephalopod friends.
“Just because something looks delicate or precious, know what your touching before you actually do something like I did,” she concluded.