My first poison ocellate octopus

It was in 2008 when buddy Carlos and I were still so hooked on the macro critters of Kaputian Beach in the Island Garden City of Samal.

I picked up a coral rubble filled broken drinking glass and found myself staring eye to eye with an octopus.

I love octopuses as subject and this one was just staring at me, a captive. I picked out the pebbles, but it’d extend a tentacle and get another pebble in as fast as I can extract one and throw it out.

This called for more drastic measures, I tried to thump it out of the glass. No success either. And that was when Carlos saw what I was doing and just pried the octopus out with his tank banger.

I was like, weeeeee!

But then, it quickly buried itself in the coral rubbles.

I was on a roll, having just had a full view of the octopus. I dug it out.

It gave this very ugly look.

then stretched…

before curling right back in…

It stretched again as I approached, apparently in a threatening pose.

Then curled right back in but this time, the skin area below its eye started showing a ring of fluorescent blue.

Carlos was signaling wildly for me to stand back, but nope, I wanted my octopus and so went closer (considering that my underwater camera at that time was just a Canon Ixus and would capture the best image only if you will not use the zoom function and just move as close as you can).

Satisfied, I left the octopus alone and went back to my search for colorful nudibranchs and mantis shrimps.

It was only after the dive, when he could rant at me when he said the critter was no ordinary octopus. It was a poison ocellate octopus (Octopus mototi), a very venomous kind.

“Blue-ringed octopuses are among the deadliest animals in the sea,” writes  Dr. Roy Caldwell, University of California at Berkeley.

“Depending on how much venom has been transferred into the wound, the onset of symptoms can be quite rapid. Within five to ten minutes, the victim begins to experience parasthesias and numbness, progressive muscular weakness and difficulty breathing and swallowing. Nausea and vomiting, visual disturbances and difficulty speaking may also occur. In severe cases, this is followed by flaccid paralysis and respiratory failure, leading to unconsciousness and death due to cerebral anoxia. Interestingly, the victim’s heart continues to beat until extreme asphyxia sets in. Some victims report being conscious, but unable to speak or move. They may even appear clinically dead with pupils fixed and dilated. Not all bites result in the transfer of venom. The severity of symptoms is dose-dependent. Smaller adults and especially children are most at risk,” Dr. Caldwell continues in his article for The Cephalopod Page (

I lived to tell the tale; and I still have to meet my second one four and a half years hence.


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