Blue-ringed octopus Hapalochlaena lunulata

Are Octopuses Dangerous?

Sucker-lined arms, sharp beaks, and venom … should humans be afraid of octopuses? While octopuses are capable of causing some damage to humans, they are generally not interested in hurting people. There are some octopus species, though, that are MORE than dangerous to humans—they’re deadly.

Australia Ugh GIF by OctoNation® The Largest Octopus Fan Club! - Find & Share on GIPHY

Humans aren’t food

Animals that are mysterious and aren’t cute in the traditional sense can sometimes get a bad rap for being creepy, scary, and even dangerous. (Think snakes and spiders!) Thanks to centuries of Kraken stories, large cephalopods often fall into this category. 

But the truth is that octopuses, no matter how big they are, don’t prey on humans. In fact, no cephalopod species—even the massive squids of the deep—are interested in humans as food.

However, all octopuses are capable of defending themselves against anything or anyone that might try to harm them. 

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About those suckers and beaks …

An octopus’s suckers are strong, and you wouldn’t want to get wrapped up in the eight suckered arms of a 16-foot Giant Pacific Octopus if you could help it! However, an octopus knows what it likes and what it doesn’t. 

Octopuses that get tangled up with divers usually let them go after they satisfy their curiosity. 

It is possible, though not easy, to get bit by an octopus. Octopuses’ beaks are sharp, and their saliva contains cephalotoxins that paralyze their prey! Most octopus bites aren’t fatal to humans, although they can cause swelling and pain.

After interviewing over a dozen aquarists at aquariums all over the world, OctoNation’s founder Warren Carlyle said “An octopus bite is extremely rare! In all my interviews, I’ve only ever heard of it happening once– and the keeper said it was her mistake. Octopus simply don’t waste energy on biting things they aren’t going to eat, the chemoreceptors in octopuses brilliant suckers taste & smell objects in a “try-it-before-you-bite-it” fashion– and whelp, we aren’t tasty!”

🐙 Fun Fact 🐙

Once upon a time, people DID get wrapped up with octopuses on purpose—well, kind of. There was a spectator sport called octopus wrestling that was popular in the Pacific Northwest. Thankfully, octopus wrestling, which was little more than ripping octopuses from their homes, waned in popularity and eventually became illegal. ugh *Insert face palm emoji*

THESE octopuses are deadly

The Greater Blue-Ringed Octopus is one of the most venomous animals in the world! 

This species, along with its closest relatives, is very dangerous. Blue-Ringed Octopuses’ saliva contains tetrodotoxin (TTX), a potent neurotoxin produced by bacteria living in blue-ringed octopuses’ salivary glands. 

One tiny drop is enough to kill a person … in minutes! It’s important to beware the blue ringed– but is equally important to note only three known deaths have occurred in the past 100 years as a result of a blue-ringed bite. So it’s safe to say…they aren’t hunting us humans. In fact, in almost every instance of a bite– it’s been individuals picking up shells or not wearing protective gear and stepping on them.

Greater Blue-ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena lunulata) in Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia
Greater Blue-ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena lunulata) in Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia

🐙 Fun Fact 🐙

The same neurotoxin used by Blue-Ringed Octopuses is also used by:

  • Moon snails
  • Rough-skinned newts
  • Pufferfishes
  • Poison dart frogs
Blowfish or puffer fish in ocean
Pufferfish underwater in the ocean

So, are octopuses dangerous? 

Octopuses are dangerous to certain non-human animals—namely, their prey! Some octopuses are also extremely dangerous to humans, but most of them are not. That doesn’t mean you should mess with them, though! Octopuses should be left alone in the wild, even those without blue rings. 

If you enjoyed this post, check out this one all about blue-ringed octopuses!

If you want to educate yourself some more about all sorts of different cephalopods, take a look at our encyclopedia. Or, what we call it, our Octopedia!

Connect with other octopus lovers via the OctoNation Facebook group,! Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with the conservation, education, and ongoing research of cephalopods.

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