small octopus (8 arms,
no fins on body, no internal "pen" skeleton) has skins with papillae;
white spots on the dorsal mantle
and on the web in front of the eyes but no large "ocelli"
Arms 3-5 times the body length. The mantle
length is usually less than 10 cm.
Octopus rubescens Berry,
Common name(s): Red octopus
|Octopus rubescens from intertidal,
San Simeon, Ca
|(Photo by: Dave Cowles May
This species often bites!
How to Distinguish from
Similar Species: Enteroctopus
dofleini is larger (also red), male has a larger hectocotylus
(about 1/5 the length of the arm vs 1/10 for O. rubescens
and its skin has abundant wrinkles along with the papillae.
also said that Enteroctopus
does not have the three cirri
that are found below the eyes of O. rubescens (photo).
Geographical Range: Alaska
Lagoon, Baja California and in Gulf of California. Most
in the southern part of the range. The commonest small
octopus in some areas (especially northern California) but in
dofleini seems more common.
Depth Range: Intertidal
to 200 m.
beds (juveniles often washed
ashore in kelp holdfasts), rocky areas, sandy mud bottoms, under stones
on low intertidal.
The sixth pair
of suckers is enlarged on all but the ventral arm of males.
is conspicuous, about 1/10 the length of the 3rd right arm, where it is
The ink is reddish or
red-brown. The larvae have a double row of chromatophores
on each arm (E.
has only 1 row/arm). Adults eat crustaceans, mollusks, and
They especially seem to prefer to eat small crabs and hermit
Females guard egg clusters intertidally or shallow subtidally from late
spring through early winter in rocky areas. Peaks in breeding
in August and September. Young hatch in 6-8 weeks, spend a
period in the plankton, and settle as juveniles in the kelp
Larger individuals migrate farther offshore on sandy mud
They mate in deep water in late spring, then move inshore
They ae often found in prawn traps.
and Blake, 1998
and Carlton, 1975
et al., 1980
et al., 1985
Anderson, RC., P. D. Hughes, J.A. Mather, and C.W. Steele,
Determination of the diet of Octopus rubescens
of its beer bottle dens in Puget Sound. Malacologia 41:
Anderson, Roland C. and Eliza A.H. Little, 2006.
of a brooding Octopus rubescens (Cephalopoda:
The Festivus 38:1 pp 10-12 (San Diego Shell Club)
Hochberg, F.G., 1998. Class
of the Benthic Fauna of the Santa Maria Basin and the Western Santa
Channel. Volume 8 part 1: The Aplacophora, Polyplacophora,
Bivalvia and Cephalopoda, pp. 1-250. P.V. Scott and J.A.
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
Mather, J.A. and R.C. Anderson, 1993. Personalities of
(Octopus rubescens). J. Comparative
Psychology 107:3 pp 336-340
Thomas, Jeremy and Lyndsi Hersey, 2006. Remote chemosensory
feeding in Octopus rubescens near Deception Pass,
Jeremy and Lyndsi tested whether this species would use its
powers to respond to the smell of prey. Using two different
they repeateadly placed either two clear plastic tubes or two opaque
tubes into their aquaria, then placed a crab into one of the tubes
out of sight of the octopus. The water inlet was flowing
the tubes so that the smell of the prey should enter the
observed the octopus' behavior for 20 minutes after placing the prey in
the tube. The showed little special interest in the opaque
They occasionally contacted the tubes or even climbed on top of them
reached their arms partly inside, but never encountered or captured the
prey. On several occasions the octopus actually entered a
it happened to be the empty one. With the clear tube (through
they could see the prey) the octopus several times quickly swam to the
tube and embraced it, but could not seem to figure out that they had to
go to the end of the tube to capture the prey. More often
ignore the prey, which was standing mostly immobile at the bottom of
tube, even though the prey was clearly visible to them. As
prey were released free into the tank, the octopus quickly captured
The students concluded that this species does not seem to use smell to
find prey, but need to see the prey moving and/or actually touch the
in order to be stimulated to capture it.
General Notes and
Observations: Locations, abundances,
I have seen this species swimming at about 500 m depth in
in late spring (observations using the MBARI Ventana ROV).
these individuals were adults which had swum out to deep water to
This individual is trying to sneak away through the intertidal
Dave Cowles, San Simeon, CA 1997
This individual has about a 20 cm arm spread. Captured near
This individual is a male. It usually keeps its hectocotylus
arm coiled, as can be seen on the
left in this view. The hectocotylus
arm is the third arm on the animal's right side. The first
arms on the right are straight and the third arm is coiled in this
Photo by Dave Cowles, June 2006
|Photo by Dave Cowles, July 2006
|Photo by Kirt Onthank, April 2007
|Photo by Kirt Onthank, April 2007
|It is said that one way to
distinguish Octopus rubescens
from small Enteroctopus
is that O. rubescens has three distinct cirri
below the eye, as seen in these views.
In this photo, the same individual shown in the tank above has eaten
an oregon cancer crab Cancer
oregonensis which was nestling within the plates of
a dead barnacle,
then took over the barnacle. Notice the mottled camouflage
and the three cirri clearly visible below the eye.
This photo shows a female Octopus rubescens (right
tending her eggs (center) which she has laid inside a beer bottle.
The bottle is encrusted with barnacles and tubeworms. Photo
Kirt Onthank, 2007.
The beak of an Octopus rubescens adult is about 1
This is the beak of the brooding female from the picture above, which
died after brooding her eggs for 3 months.
Many of the eggs had become cloudy and did not appear viable after
the 3 months.
Photo by Kirt Onthank, March 2007
Authors and Editors of Page:
Dave Cowles (2005): Created original page