While no fewer than six people were watching and three of us had our arms in her tank – Octavia had stolen the bucket right out from under us.
‘Octopuses are phenomenally smart’ Menashi says.
And he should know: He has worked with them for twenty years and is expert in keeping these intelligent invertebrates occupied.
Otherwise they become bored.
Aquariums design elaborate escape-proof lids for their octopus tanks and still they are often thwarted.
Octopuses not infrequently slip out of their exhibits and turn up in other tanks to eat the inhabitants.
Many aquariums give their octopuses Legos to dismantle – jars with lids to unscrew and Mr. Potato Heads to play with.
Menashi – a retired inventor – designed a series of nesting Plexiglas cubes – each with a different lock – which Boston’s octopuses quickly learned to open to get at a tasty crab inside.
And just recently aquarists at Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium in New Zealand teamed up with Sony engineers to teach a female octopus named Rambo to press the red shutter button on a waterproofed camera to take photos of visitors – which the aquarium sells for $2 each to benefit its conservation programs.
Though there’s no evidence that Rambo realizes the end product of her photography – she learned to work the gadget in just three attempts.
Intelligence so like our own may seem surprising in a creature so unlike us.