Can Octopuses Walk on Two Legs? Octopus Locomotion Explained

Yes, octopuses have been observed walking on two legs. Its called “bipedal locomotion.” I’m a biologist and I’ve written this article to dig deeper into this clever adaptation. I’ve also aimed to provide a comprehensive look at octopus locomotion.

Octopuses walking on two legs can be fun to look at… and a bit mind-boggling! Check it out in this video on octopus locomotion.

Sci Friday – Run, Octopus, Run! Video on octopus locomotion, showing walking on two legs.

Octopuses Walking on Two Legs

Now, you might be wondering how an animal with no bones can walk on two legs. Well, it turns out that octopuses are incredibly flexible and can contort their bodies in all sorts of crazy ways. By bending and twisting their arms, they can create a sort of “leg” that can support their body weight.

But why would an octopus want to walk on two legs? Well, it turns out that it can be a pretty useful way to get around. By lifting their bodies up off the ocean floor, octopuses can use six arms for other things, like carrying food or building a shelter. It’s like having an extra set of hands (or arms, in this case)!

Of course, not all octopuses are capable of bipedal locomotion. It seems to be a skill that’s unique to certain species, like the coconut octopus and the veined octopus. But even among these species, not all individuals are able to walk on two legs.

So the next time you’re at the aquarium and you see an octopus walking on two legs, be sure to give it a round of applause. After all, it’s not every day you get to see an animal with no bones walking upright like a human!

Do Octopuses Have Legs or Arms?

Octopuses have 8 arms – see my article explaining how they work and how they can regenerate.

When they walk on two appendages, however, I guess you could loosely refer to them as legs. Bit to be completely accurate, they are still arms. However they are definitely NOT tentacles!!

Octopus crossing sand

What’s the Difference Between Arms and Tentacles?

Arms have suckers all the way to the tip. Tentacles only have suckers at the tip, but not along the length of the appendage.

Octopus don’t have any tentacles, just 8 arms. But squids have 2 tentacles and 8 arms!

While cephalopod tentacles and arms might look similar at first glance, there are actually some key differences between the two.

Tentacles are typically longer and thinner than arms, and they usually have suckers only at the very end. They’re also usually used for capturing prey – in fact, some species of cephalopod, like squid, have two long tentacles that they use to grab onto their prey and bring it closer to their beak.

Arms, on the other hand, are shorter and thicker than tentacles, and they usually have suckers along their entire length. They’re more versatile than tentacles and can be used for a variety of tasks, like crawling along the ocean floor, manipulating objects, and even communicating with other cephalopods.

Another key difference between tentacles and arms is the number of each that a cephalopod has. Squid, for example, have two tentacles and eight arms, while octopuses have eight arms but no tentacles at all. Cuttlefish, meanwhile, have a mix of arms and tentacles, with two longer tentacles and eight shorter arms.

So while tentacles and arms might look similar at first glance, they actually serve different purposes and have different structures.

The Octopus Paradox is my new book – available now!

Book cover for Octopus Paradox by George Sranko

How do octopuses make nine brains work as one?
Amazingly, even though they have a distributed nervous system with two-thirds of their neurons in their arms, octopuses are able to solve complex problems, use tools, and even exhibit behaviors that suggest they may possess some form of consciousness.

In “The Octopus Paradox”, we will explore the world of these intelligent creatures and learn about their amazing abilities, from their incredible camouflage to their complex mating rituals. You will discover how their decentralized nervous system works and how it allows them to adapt to different environments and situations.

How Do Octopuses Get Around?

Let’s talk about the amazing way that octopuses get around. These eight-armed wonders have a variety of techniques for locomotion, depending on their environment and what they’re trying to accomplish.

When an octopus wants to move quickly, it can use jet propulsion. This involves expelling water out of a muscular funnel near its head, propelling the octopus in the opposite direction. It’s like the octopus is shooting itself through the water like a rocket!

But if an octopus wants to be a bit more stealthy, it can use a different technique called crawling. This involves using its arms to pull itself along the ocean floor or other surfaces. Octopuses are surprisingly good at this, using their suction cups to grip onto rocks and other objects as they move.

In some cases, an octopus might even use its arms to “walk” along the ocean floor. By bending its arms and using them like legs, the octopus can move more slowly and carefully, allowing it to sneak up on prey or avoid predators.

And that’s not all! Octopuses are also known for their incredible ability to change color and texture, which can help them blend in with their surroundings or communicate with other octopuses. So whether they’re jetting, crawling, walking, or camouflaging themselves, octopuses are truly masters of movement in the underwater world.

Overview of Octopus Locomotion

As an octopus enthusiast, you may already know that these fascinating creatures are capable of various forms of locomotion. This section will give you a concise overview of octopus locomotion, diving into different techniques such as jet propulsion, arm crawling, arms with one direction, and bipedal walking.

Jet Propulsion

If you’ve ever seen an octopus suddenly propel itself through the water, you’ve witnessed the impressive power of jet propulsion. To perform this swift maneuver, an octopus draws water into its mantle cavity, then quickly expels it through a small funnel. By adjusting the direction of the funnel, the octopus can control its speed and trajectory.

This method allows for rapid escape from predators, helping to ensure survival.

Arm Crawling

Using their highly developed muscular arms, octopuses can gracefully crawl across various surfaces. You’ll find that these flexible limbs, lined with numerous suction cups, provide excellent grip, enabling octopuses to traverse rocky seafloors with ease.

During arm crawling, the octopus typically coordinates the movement of all eight arms in a coordinated fashion, allowing for efficient locomotion.

Bipedal Walking

One of the most intriguing aspects of octopus locomotion is the ability to walk on just two legs – also known as bipedal walking. This uncommon technique usually involves the use of two opposite arms, while the other six arms are bundled together to form a “pseudo-trunk.”

As the octopus walks, it uses the two designated limbs to push itself off the ground, resembling the way humans and other bipedal animals move. This form of locomotion can be seen in species like the Coconut Octopus, which uses its bipedal walk to maneuver across the sea bottom while holding coconut shells as shelter.

Anatomy of Octopus Locomotion

Muscular Structure

When it comes to octopus locomotion, your knowledge of their muscular structure is essential. The octopus possesses three types of muscles – circular, radial, and longitudinal. These muscles work together to control the movements of their flexible arms and body. As an octopus propels itself, you can observe the circular muscles contracting while the radial and longitudinal muscles expand.

Nervous System

Understanding the nervous system of octopuses is crucial for you to fully grasp their locomotion. Each of their arms has its own mini-brain, allowing them to move independently while processing sensory information. Additionally, their larger brain facilitates complex behaviors like maneuvering through tight spaces or selecting the best escape route. Keep in mind that your knowledge of octopus intelligence directly relates to their nervous system and movement abilities.

Suction Cups

At the heart of octopus locomotion are the numerous suction cups lining their arms. These specialized appendages play a significant role in their movement process. As you study their locomotion, pay attention to how they use hydraulic pressure and muscle movements to create a strong grip on surfaces. This enables them to perform tasks like opening jars or manipulating objects in their environment.

Throughout your exploration of octopus locomotion, remember that their remarkable anatomy and muscular structure, their advanced nervous system, and their highly effective suction cups are essential factors that contribute to their diverse movement capabilities.

Factors Affecting Octopus Movement

Environmental Conditions

When it comes to environmental conditions, you, as an octopus, are greatly influenced by your surroundings. The seabed’s texture, the water flow, and available shelter all play a role in how you move. For example, if you’re in a rocky area, you might need to utilize your flexible body to navigate the crevices. In contrast, if you’re in an open sand flat, you might find it more appropriate to use jet propulsion or crawl along with your arms.

Predator Evasion

Survival as an octopus depends on the ability to evade predators. One way to achieve this is by adapting movement to be more stealthy or erratic, depending on the situation. For example:

  • Camouflage: Octopuses can change your color, pattern, and texture to blend in with their surroundings, making it difficult for predators to spot them.
  • Jet propulsion: Using their siphons to expel water rapidly, octopuses can make a quick escape from threats.
  • Arm autotomy: As a last resort, some octopus species can detach one of their arms to distract a predator and make their escape.

Hunting Strategies

Octopus hunting strategies also have a significant impact on their movements. Different prey call for different tactics, such as:

  • Ambush: Octopuses find it effective to hide under rocks or bury themselves in the sand, waiting for unsuspecting prey to venture close enough to snatch with their arms.
  • Chase: Employing speed and agility, they can pursue small, fast-moving prey using their jet propulsion or crawling abilities.
  • Coordination: Utilizing their arms and suction cups, they can grasp onto prey and manipulate objects (e.g., opening shells) to access their meal.