Are there octopus in the Gulf?
The Flower Gardens Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) is the the most observed and studied habitat in the Gulf and according to FGBNMS research coordinator Emma Hickerson there are at least four octopus species there.
These include the Caribbean two-spotted octopus, common octopus, white-spotted octopus and mimic octopus. And although it’s no an octopus, the Atlantic sea hare is also present and looks out of like an octopus meets cuttlefish. The photos used here are courtesy of FGBNMS.
“I filmed a Caribbean two-spotted octopus quite a few years ago out and about scooting around the reef during the day, but otherwise typically they are tucked away in the reef. You can sometimes find their “middens” which are piles of shells from their meals. One particular octopus I filmed was big enough to be feasting on large queen conch and slipper lobster at Stetson Bank,” she said.
Kristi Oden encountered caught one while diving off of an oil platform off the Texas coast.
“It was a feisty thing,” she said.
“It kept grabbing my dive knife and pulling on it. I got it into my dive bag and took it back up to the boat because I wanted to look at it. It was really neat. When I got it out of the bag and it changed colors to match the floor of the boat. I looked at it for a little while and then put him back in the water.”
Most encounters with octopus off the Texas coast are around oil rigs and at the FGBNMS but some divers reporting seeing them at the jetties in Port O’Connor, Aransas Pass and Port Mansfield. Finding octopus along the beach jetties and even in the bays is a fairly common occurrence on the Gulf Coast of Florida but in the western Gulf they remain mysterious.
The common octopus can grow to impressive sizes with specimens as large as 4.3 feet and weighing upwards of 20 pounds. They are amazing creatures and we hope you enjoy these photos.