Lifting the lid on octopus's intellect

Last updated 15:40 23/11/2012
Fairfax NZ

Octopus Opens Jar

Cassandra the octopus
Cassandra the octopus opens a screw top jar at the Island Bay Marine Education Centre.

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A Wellington octopus has become an IQ ambassador for its species after learning to open a jar to get at a crab inside.

Island Bay Marine Education Centre Discovery Programme manager Julian Hodge said the fact octopuses could open jars was already known but only a few people had witnessed it.

Now Cassandra, one of the centre's octopuses, has displayed the skill multiple times.

"We know octopuses are smart creatures. We were really surprised at how quickly this particular octopus worked out the best way to get to her food."

Aquarium staff started by giving Cassandra crabs in an open jar, which she would easily pluck out to eat.

Then, they gave her a crab in a jar with a lid which had a hole in it.

On the first attempt Cassandra went through the fiddly process of putting a tentacle through the hole, dismembering the crab, then pulling it out piece-by-piece.

On the second attempt it took her four to five minutes to figure out that it was faster to simply twist the lid open.

Subsequent attempts took her a minute or less.

Cassandra was donated to the aquarium by a local fishing crew that found her in one of their crayfish pots.

She would be released on December 16 but people can see her opening jars for crabs during open days which run from 10am to 3pm on Sundays. Feeding time is 10.45am.

It is not the first noteworthy octopus the aquarium has had. Years ago, an octopus was escaping from its tank overnight, going to another tank to steal crabs, then returning to its own tank.

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- The Dominion Post


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