An octopus can have as many as 1,800 suckers on each of its arms. These highly sensitive suction cups allow an octopus to experience their surroundings through touch and chemical receptors, discerning even the most subtle differences between textures.
I spoke with Julie Gee, Aquarist at the Georgia Aquarium, to learn more about octopus suckers. Julie shared, “The outside of the sucker is covered in chemoreceptors – nerve endings which are stimulated by different chemicals. This is very similar to the cells on the inside of our nose which allow us to smell. In that way, octopuses are able to taste with their suction cups.”
An octopus often favors one arm over the rest, similar to how humans are right or left-handed. Additionally, octopuses can separately move each suction stalk on their arms. The acetabulum – or small cavity – at the end of each sucker allows an octopus to attach itself to an object, such as a clam shell or crab leg.
“Octopuses also use their suction cups and tentacles for mating purposes,” explained Julie. “Males have a modified tentacle called hectacotylus which they use to implant a sperm packet into the female and fertilize her eggs.”
Check out this short clip to see the suckers of a Giant Pacific octopus up close:
Tune-in for Hunt for the Giant Octopus on Nat Geo Wild on Thursday August 5 at 8P et/pt.