Here’s Everything You Want To Know About Octopus Suckers!

What is the shape of a frisbee, can hold up to 35 pounds, pry open a clamshell, AND taste food? An octopus sucker! Powerful and sensitive, octopus suckers are the ultimate all-purpose tool. Read to get suckered into all the cool stuff you never knew you wanted to know about octopus suckers!

Maori Octopus By: Steven Walsh

Fun Facts About An Octopus’s Sucker

Octopuses use the many tiny suction cups along their arms to anchor their bodies to:

  • Substrate
  • Manipulate objects
  • Investigate their environment
  • Grasp food

Imagine if your fingers could not only hold food but also taste it at the same time. 

Without even looking at your food, you wouldn’t just know what you’re holding, but you would be able to TASTE it before it gets to your mouth! 

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
By: Ben McCulloch Trayner & Andy Wheatcroft

Does every cephalopod have the same amount of suckers?

The total number of suckers an octopus has on each arm is species-dependent. Still, octopuses generally have a double row of suckers (biserial) running down each arm from their mouth.

The Giant Pacific Octopus is most impressive, with around 280 suckers PER ARM. Doing some quick math, that means a whopping total of 2,240 suckers PER OCTOPUS. 

Are all suckers the same?

As with everything we talk about regarding octopuses, there is considerable variability between species with form, usually getting wackier when we add the other cephalopods to the mix. 

For example, some species of squid have suckers with tiny hooks or teeth. On the other hand, the Glass Octopus only has one row of suckers (not the usual two), and the Nautilus, despite having 90 tentacles, is completely sucker-less! 

🐙 Octopus Fun Fact

The sharp “teeth” on the suckers of squid are made out of a protein called suckerin, which gives the teeth strength and flexibility!

Giant Squid Vs. Sperm Whale via Smithsonian Report 1916

How do octopus suckers actually work? 

When a sucker comes in contact with something, it flattens and conforms to the surface to create a seal. Muscles in the sucker then contract, reducing the water pressure within the sucker, and boom- watertight seal! 

Different muscles surrounding the sucker help release the tension and allow the octopus to detach. They even have special mucus covering their suckers, aiding with adhesion.

Octopus 101 | Suckers!

How strong is an octopus? How many suction cups does an octopus have? And can octopus give you hickeys? Dive into the wonderful world of octopus natural history with cephalopod aquarist Candace and learn more about giant Pacific octopuses at the Monterey Bay Aquarium!

Posted by Monterey Bay Aquarium on Sunday, June 17, 2018
By: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

They are mighty, mighty strong!

Octopus suckers are muscular structures that create low-pressure suction on objects. Each sucker is attached to the arm by a muscular base that can rotate the sucker in any direction and can be elongated to twice its normal length. 

That’s a lot of independent flexing and stretching happening on each octopus arm!

Detail of Octopus Suckers via: Javi Postigo

A sucker is made up of two main parts, the infundibulum, and acetabulum, all of which are surrounded by different shaped muscles. 

  • The outer, visible part of the sucker is the infundibulum. It has many grooves and ridges that help the sucker form a watertight seal on any type of surface.
  • The acetabulum is a chamber inside the sucker, which plays an important role in suction. The roof of this chamber is covered with brush-like hairs that aren’t found anywhere else on the sucker. Scientists suggest that these hairs help an octopus stay suctioned to an object for long periods of time without using any extra energy. 

Pretty important when you think about an octopus having to hold a clam for 2 hours while it drills a hole in it! For those interested, let’s look at a more detailed illustration by Gabby Wharton.

An Octopus’ Tight Grip via Smithsonian

So, how strong is an octopus sucker? 

Let’s use the GPO. 

The Giant Pacific Octopus’s larger suckers, near the beak and mouth, can hold up to 35 pounds! They are used to pry open and obliterate clams, crabs, and other sea life that should, and would, be hard to eat under normal circumstances.

That’s one powerful grip! 

How Strong is an Octopus?💪🐙

What makes an Octopus so strong?💪🐙🎥: RoneyDives🔘 The large suckers on a Giant Pacific octopus (GPO) are a bit bigger than the top of a soda can. (6.4 cm/2.5 in diameter)🔘 Just 1 sucker of that size can support 16 kg (35 lb) each! That suggests one large sucker could pick up a cinder block! yoWza!🐙 Considering GPO's have up to 280 suckers per arm– adding up the strength of every sucker combined gets pretty wild!🤩 It is SO fascinating (and relaxing?) to watch the suckers in this video and even cooler once you consider this…🧠 With 2/3 of their neurons located in their arms, each one of these suckers can independently operate, taste, smell, grip objects, and perform small tasks without needing to check in with their central brain.👽 Bottom line: Octopuses have super smart & strong suckers!Read this far? comment "Let's Go, GPO" and share this OctoTrivia with your friends!🏷 #octonation #octopus #giantpacificoctopus #cephalopod #cephalopods #underwaterphotography #earthcapture #marinebiology #marinelife #salishsea #vancouverisland #britishcolumbia #seacreatures #sealife #natgeowild #discoverocean #oceanlife #oceanconservation #sealovers #vanislewild #vanisle #pacificnorthwest #pnwphotographer #marinebiologyshots #science #nature #biology

Posted by Octonation – The Largest Octopus Fan Club on Monday, October 25, 2021
Giant Pacific Octopus By: Roney Dives

🐙 Octopus Fun Fact

Octopus arms and suckers are being studied for applications in soft robotics. Bioinspiration from these amazing animals helps design innovative artificial suction cups that can grasp complex-shaped objects and move them in water or oil! 

Keep an eye out for those sticky suckers!

If these suckers are so strong and suction to whatever the octopus wants, how does it not get stuck to itself and end up in one giant knotted octopus ball?

One study found that an octopus’s skin produces a chemical signal that overrides their suction reflexes, thus preventing them from ending up in a sticky situation. 

This isn’t all this chemical signal does! 

It’s unique to each octopus, so they don’t go and accidentally eat one of their own arms. 

Since octopuses have cannibalistic tendencies (see the Maori Octopus’s mating habits), this unique chemical signature prevents them from feasting on the wrong octopus arm. 

Maori Octopus By: Matt Testoni

Sucker sensors→ Brain activity!

The first layer on a sucker has sensors called chemotactile sensors. This is how an octopus can figure out what exactly it’s touching. 

Not only that, it lets them taste what they are touching. 

Rock or crab? Am I touching, or am I tasting AND touching? 

These sensors let an octopus know that immediately. That information is sent to their vast neural network, much of which is in their arms. 

But, the smarts don’t stop there. 

Suggestion: Suckers are tactile, chemical, AND light sensors! 

A recent study (September 2021) identified a light-sensing molecule in the suckers (specifically the sucker rim) of Octopus vulgaris. This light sensing molecule is found in different sucker types in several areas along the arm. 

Light-sensing suckers may aid the octopus in detecting hidden prey. However, different areas of the arm can be used for various functions. 

More research is needed to explore the light-sensing abilities in octopus arm suckers! 

Maori Octopus By: Steven Walsh

Ever heard of the octopus having 9 brains? 

That refers to their one main centralized brain and the 8 clusters of neurons they have in each arm. 

About 66% of an octopus’s neurons are located in their arms, giving them some serious independence from their main brain. 

Imagine trying to keep track of all your fingers that had hundreds of tiny tongues on them? Sensory overload! 

To overcome this, an octopus’s brain is diversified.

So, while different arms are probing rocks and crevices for food, their main brain can be fully concentrated on keeping a lookout for predators. 

An octopus’s arm has so much control that studies have shown a severed octopus arm will still go on being an arm for about an hour. It will reach for things, move, and even bring food up to where its mouth would be. 

Suckers the size of bread plates 🤩🔘🔘🔘🔘🔘🔘🔘🔘🔘🔘🔘🔘You’d be surprised to learn how precise octopus suckers are— ⁣⁣they kinda look like they’d be clunky, right? 👨‍⚕️ In 1977 Dr. Jerome Wodinsky discovered that octopuses had so much fine motor control that it was almost impossible to perform surgery on them.⁣⁣👨‍⚕️🗣 "Nobody's ever found an octopus that keeps the sutures in, they always pull them out." Wodinsky said. "Either they untie the knots or they just pull the threads with the silk right through the skin."⁣⁣⁣⁣〰️ Tight knots of surgical silk completely untied!

Posted by Warren K Carlyle IV on Tuesday, January 19, 2021

🐙 Octopus Fun Fact

The Common Octopus have favorite arms! Even though their arms are all the same, they tend to favor their front arms for reaching and exploring. 

My oh my- are they sensitive!

How do they keep their suckers looking fresh, clean, and at maximum tasting capacity? Manicures!! 

It might sound crazy but hear us out. 

Octopus suckers have a sucker lining, called a chitinous cuticle, which they periodically shed and constantly renew. Kind of like your fingernails, except that for octopuses, it’s a protective lining covering the surface of every-single sucker. 

Just like our fingernails make it easy for us to pick things up, an octopus’s textured sucker lining helps them hold onto objects and not let go.

Octopus groom themselves in the strangest & coolest way!

Is it just us, or is this relaxing to watch?😍⁣🎥: IG: @MatthewUnderwater 💅 Did you know octopuses do their own manicures?

🤔 It might sound crazy, but hear us out. Octopus suckers have something called a ⁣⁣chitinous cuticle— it’s kinda like your finger nails, except for octopuses it’s a protective lining covering the surface of every-single sucker they have! Just like our fingernails make it easy for us to pick things up, an octopuses textured sucker lining helps them hold onto objects and not let go! What happens when your nails get too long? Ya bite em, trim em, or maybe even paint em!When an octopuses sucker lining wears out, it will carefully begin to swirl it’s 8 arms together until all that's left is hundreds of round translucent sucker discs floating around its den.The outgrown sucker lining sheds off revealing well-manicured squeaky clean suckers!Look at those pearly-whites! ✨🐙✨And that’s not all folks… 

Not only does grooming improve their grip strength, it sharpens their ability to taste and smell with the suckers on their arms! Wild huh?!⁣⁣
If you read this far, tell us what ya found most fascinating about this post & if you enjoyed it— share to your stories! Thanks Nation! 🏷 #science #nature #biology #marinelife #cuttlefish #octopuses #cephalopods #reef #underwater #diving #oceanconservation #sea #biodiversity #marinebiology #ocean #animals #fish #octopus #natgeo #nationalgeographic #natgeoyourshot #STEM #scuba #scubadiving #underwaterphotography #wildlifephotography #myoctopusteacher

Posted by Octonation – The Largest Octopus Fan Club on Saturday, August 7, 2021
By: Matthew Underwater

But what happens when your nails get too long? You bite them, trim them, or maybe even paint them! When an octopus’s sucker lining wears out, it will carefully begin to swirl its 8 arms together until all that’s left are hundreds of round translucent sucker discs floating about its den. 

The outgrown sucker lining sheds off, revealing well-manicured, squeaky-clean suckers. 

A fresh set, if you will. 

And that’s not where it ends! 

Grooming improves their grip strength and sharpens their ability to taste and smell with the suckers on their arms.

🐙 Octopus Fun Fact

Each individual suction cup has more receptors than the human tongue!

How do octopuses clean / groom themselves?

What do ya think this octo is doing?🎥 @SnorkDorks ⬇️ Answer ⬇️💅 Just like we have finger nails to shield our fingers, octos have sucker lining that protects their suckers!🔘 Just like our nails grow, this outer layer of skin grows & sheds!👅 Octopus can improve their taste, smell, grip on prey items, and other objects by swirling their suckers, & slowly peeling away old skin. (Yup, octopuses suckers have chemoreceptors that make decisions about food before eating it!) Kinda looks like floating Lilly pads when they’re done washing up & getting squeaky clean! ✨🐙✨ If you’re wondering what that tube is that’s opening and closing, that’s the octopuses siphon/funnel! Not only does it breathe through that opening, but it disperses ink, poops 🎉 , and jets water to propel it’s body forward! 🥳 If ya read this far, lemme know what you found most interesting about this fact! 🏆 Bonus question: Can anyone guess this species? #octopus #tentacles #marinebiology #cabbagetreebay #shellybeach #manlybeach #manlyaustralia #northernbeaches #manly#olympustg5 #snorkelling #snorkel #diving #freediving #freedivingphotography #underwaterphotography #underwater #uwphotopgrahyeu #divingphoto #nature #naturephotography #ocean #underwaterworld #underwaterlife #scubadiving #ausgeo #octonation

Posted by Octonation – The Largest Octopus Fan Club on Thursday, September 3, 2020
By: Snork Dorks

Octopus Suckers: Grab, Smell, Eat, Repeat! 

I think we can all agree that we can add octopus suckers to the long list of what makes these animals so special. 

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.

Click here to Adopt an Octopus!

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