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Do Octopus Have Beaks?

It seems hard to believe, but octopuses really DO have beaks! But wait, it gets even cooler than that. Behind that beak are even more strange secrets that help octopuses survive! Strap on your scuba tank, because we’ll be taking a deep dive into some octopus facts that are downright un-beak-lievable! 

Every octopus has a hooked, parrot-like beak hidden away in its underside, in the middle of its arms. It can be hard to spot because it’s also retractable, which means when an octopus isn’t using it, it can pull it into its body – kind of like a cat’s claws!

By: Qiaz Hua

Octopuses are carnivorous, meaning they only eat other sea creatures. And their beak has been designed over millions of years of evolution to help them get the most out of their meaty meals! 

Ever seen a cuttlefish beak? Check out this dwarf cuttlefish eat a grass shrimp! 🤩Footage Via: Seattle Aquarium

Posted by Warren K Carlyle IV on Tuesday, October 1, 2019
The Beak of a Cuttlefish

Behind the beak

Most of the time, an octopus’ favorite prey are things like crabs and clams, which have some kind of hard outer shell or exoskeleton to protect themselves from predators. But octopuses have developed a clever way to get around, or rather, through these defenses. 

Octopuses use their radula and salivary papillae to drill into or crack open these hard shells(more on that later). Then, they use their beak, like you might use a pair of scissors, cutting apart softer food like fish into bite-sized chunks!

Sushi, anyone? 

You can’t go wrong with your meal if you are also armed with a venomous weapon – the cephalotoxin! Octopuses secrete and inject this toxic [analogy? potion?] into their prey, causing them to be paralyzed. This makes it easier to handle their food while protecting themselves from the painful claws of a crab.

A glimpse of an octopuses beak! 🐦 😍 🐙Look at all those suckers!

Posted by Warren K Carlyle IV on Saturday, September 8, 2018

Do Octopus Use Their Beaks To Chew? 

Octopuses use their jaws for cutting meat, but they don’t use them to chew. They do something MUCH cooler!   

To get through the armor of its prey, an octopus will use a special tongue called a radula to drill a hole into the hard shells and access their flesh. It’s also like a cheese grater that is covered in lots of little, rough barbs which scrape down big chunks of meat into smaller bits that are easier for them to swallow! 

🐙 Fun Fact 🐙

This is important as the small esophagus is nested in the middle of the brain, so food pieces can’t be too large. 

Imagine having to eat a steak armed with nothing but a cheese grater, and you’ve got the right idea!  

Which just leaves us with the question: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a crab? 

Octopus beaks a.Schematic drawing of a sagittal section through the buccal mass of an octopus to show the position of the upper and lower beak and other structures used for feeding.  b-c. Upper and lower beaks of two Antarctic octopuses: bAdelieledone polymorphac. Pareledone turqueti.
Octopus beaks
a.Schematic drawing of a sagittal section through the buccal mass of an octopus to show the position of the upper and lower beak and other structures used for feeding.
b-c. Upper and lower beaks of two Antarctic octopuses: bAdelieledone polymorphac. Pareledone turqueti.

What octopus beaks can teach us

Scientists can learn a lot about how an animal evolved by studying an animal’s remains. Usually, this means studying hard tissue that’s left behind, like shells or bones. 

But how do they learn about our boneless buddy, the octopus? The answer is simple: look for the beaks! 

Octopus beaks are made from a hard substance called chitin, which is the same stuff lobster and crab shells are made of! And these beaks are TOUGH. 

So tough, in fact, that scientists learned about the octopus’ natural predators by finding undigested beaks in the stomachs of sharks and whales

Beaks can even become fossils and teach us about the ancestors of today’s cephalopods. Recently, paleontologists discovered the fossilized beak of a squid called Haboroteuthis poseidon which, based on the amazingly large size of the beak, was probably as huge as the giant squid! Twice the size of the modern colossal squid. 

How do octopus eat? Learn with OctoNation!

Ever wonder how octopus eat? If you’re looking for the gourmet chefs of the sea, look no further than the octopus.🐙 While they only prepare meals for themselves— inside their mouth are all the tools they need to prepare the perfect dinner!🍴 Let’s take a look at their chef’s tool kit to see how they prepare their food…🔪 Just as knives are meant to dice and cut, an octopus beak, much like a parrot beak, is responsible for cutting food and busting open clams that are too thick to pull open with their arms. The next tool they use is the radula! The radula is a ribbon-like tongue covered with tiny rows of teeth used to shred the meat into tiny pieces and slurp clams and mussels out of their shells once they are broken open. 🦀 For crabs, a favorite meal, the octopus uses its radula to shred and remove crab meat out of the crab's hard outer covering/exoskeleton.If they catch a clam with a thick shell or an animal with sharp claws (like a crab!), no problem— they’ll use this next natural accessory…the salivary papilla!🦷 The salivary papilla is a tooth covered organ that the octopus uses to drill into thick shells they can’t manage to crack open with their beaks or pull apart with their arms.☠️ Into that drilled hole they can release a toxic cocktail of venom that immediately goes to work loosening prey muscle from the shell or skeleton, and paralyzing the prey. 🤩 Can you believe octopuses have all these epic tools behind their beaks?!💭 Why do octopus go through all this trouble to make sure that their food is smushed, crushed, and relaxed before they eat it? 🍩 Their food travels down the esophagus, which passes through their donut shaped brain, before getting to the stomach- that's not a lot of room for large pieces of food! Luckily, this seeming octopus design flaw was course-corrected with an impressive set of mouth tools to make sure anything that enters their body is a well prepared meal 💋 Bon appétit, mon ami! If you read this far… what impressed you the most about Chef Octo?🎥: Ben McCulloch Trayner & Andy Wheatcroft#Octopus #OctoNation #EarthDay #EarthWeek #Nature #underwaterphotography #uwvideo #sea #ocean #scuba #scubadiving #nationalgeographic

Posted by Octonation – The Largest Octopus Fan Club on Friday, April 23, 2021

Just the beak-inning! 

The cool thing about octopuses is that there’s always something new to learn! Check out our Octopedia (link) to learn more! 

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, OctopusFanClub.com! 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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