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Monday, April 1, 2013

Save The Octopus

I've been out to Portland, Oregon many times and love visiting that part of the US.  There is beautiful scenery and a different "vibe".  Though it's too rainy and cloudy for me to want to live there, it's a great place to visit. And if you're a bibliophile like myself, Powell's Books is an incredible place to spend a good bit of a day!

But there is another reason to love the Pacific Northwest.  There is unique nature there that is found nowhere else, and a Biologist like myself can't help but be fascinated by these species.  The one that really captured my attention recently is the plight if the endangered Pacific Northwest tree octopus.  Due to many reasons this rare and amazing creature is close to becoming extinct.

I've long been interested in cephalopods, especially octopuses.  An octopus has the intelligence of a dog and has even been seen engaging in play behavior, something never seen in other invertebrates.  While I've never had an opportunity to see one in my practice since I don't do aquatic medicine, I'd love to shadow a vet who does work on them.

The tree octopus is quite different from its aquatic cousins.  It is arboreal, spending most of its life in the trees.  Because there is so much humidity and moisture in the eastern parts of Washington and Oregon (that biome is considered a temperate rainforest) the are able to survive out of the water.  They feed on small birds and rodents, similar to how their ocean relatives feed off shellfish.  Their ability to camouflage themselves aids in their position as an ambush predator.

While I'm not a "tree hugger" and don't normally get on "save the X" bandwagons, I can't help but have sympathy for these creatures.  Between human encroachment in their habitat and predation from local fauna they are on the road to becoming extinct.  But like any endangered animal there are things we can do to help.

For more information there is an entire web site dedicated to preserving these amazing animals.  You will find  details on their life cycle, videos of the elusive animal, links to other resources, and ways to help.  If you are willing to lend a hand, or are just curious, I encourage you to click the link to find out more.