Judge It By Its Size, Do you? Meet the Blue-Ringed Octopus – The Cute Little ‘Pod That Can – and Will – Kill You!

Sometimes it’s best to not go in the water! My husband and I have joked quite a bit about certain places on Earth where humans should just not venture – the Australian Outback, the Amazon rain forest, Sterling Heights, MI and …the ocean.


This is probably the most identifying feature of Sterling Heights, MI.

I take that back. Let’s just say Australia as a WHOLE is a place humans should not venture, not just the “Outback!” Australia will, without a doubt, find a way to kill you. Your death in Australia might be caused by a saltwater crocodile, Steve Irwin’s angry ghost, a poisonous snake (21 out of the 25 most venomous snakes in the world live in the land “Down Under”), a rabid koala, or an Australian native, whom you’ve decided to argue with about the meaning of the word “rubber,” or some other silly word that means one thing in the U.S. – and something completely different in Australia.  Or maybe you’ve decided to badmouth Paul Hogan, Olivia Newton-John or Kylie Minogue, and a testy local decided to feed you to their hungry herd of kangaroos. Or if you venture into the tidal regions of Australia’s coasts, you might run afoul of a blue-ringed octopus, which looks like this:


The protective gloves are an important plot point. Read on to find out why you should never, ever handle one of these things – probably best not to invade their turf! How can something so tiny be able to kill an adult human? Read on!

The previous photo was just to show the scale of how small the blue-ringed octopus is. Here is another picture of the blue-ringed octopus:


Before you die, you see the ring…A blue-ringed octopus, aka Hapalochlaena lunulata, reaches sizes of only about 5-8 inches long.

Per wikipedia, the blue-ringed octopus is considered to be one of the world’s most venomous marine animals, and holds enough venom to kill 26 adult humans. The active ingredient in its death sauce – or venom – is tetrodotoxin, which is 1,200 times more deadly than cyanide. This is the same death sauce – or venom –  found in pufferfish and poison dart frogs.  On an episode of The Simpsons, Homer fears he may have accidentally eaten a pufferfish and starts doing a bucket list because he thinks he’s going to die.


I like how angry this fish looks…from The Simpsons, season 2, episode 11 called “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish.” My favorite part of the episode is where the restaurant staff is trying to get the attention of the head chef, who is the only one who knows what part of the pufferfish is poisonous – and which part is not. Problem is the head chef is making out in the car with a woman.  Uh, I’ll just let another “Simpsons” meme do the talking here!


Now let’s get back to the blue-ringed octopus, shall we? You’ve decided to disregard all of my advice about staying the hell away from Australia, and you’re in…Australia. All the cool kids say you should totally check out a tide pool, so you go check out a tide pool.


Looks harmless enough, right? Wrong! This is where you are most likely to encounter a blue-ringed octopus, which will turn your exotic Australian vacation into some kind of weird tentacle death porn (there is a porn for everything…really there is!)

Blue-ringed octopuses really dig tide pools, where they vainly attempt to stay the Hell away from pretty much everyone. Their favorite pastime, besides filming their own tentacle death porn for their YouTube channel, is…hiding in rocks. They can change shape and color easily, and can squeeze into crevices much smaller than themselves (thinking about tentacle porn yet?), which makes them experts in the art of hiding. They really, love staying the f— away from everyone – so much that they will pile up rocks outside the entrance to their lairs. This is how they do the “do not disturb” sign! How cool is the word “lair?” It really does imply evil, doesn’t it? Nice creatures and people don’t have lairs!


Dr. Evil’s lair in the Austin Powers movies.

A silly human wading around a blue-ringed octopus’ tide pool cares not about the stacked rocks or disturbing the habitat of a creature who is only about eight inches long, which is about as big and long as…(ahem)! All the humans care about is being able to post pictures of their fabulous Aussie vacay on Facebook, thereby causing half of their friends to temporarily unfollow them because they just won’t STOP with the damn vacation pictures!

Oh yeah? Think getting unfollowed by your friends for posting too many vacation photos is bad? Wait until you get a load of old “blue rings!” If you are unfortunate enough to see a blue-ringed octopus showing its namesake rings, then you’ve already pissed it off. The blue-ringed octopus can quickly change color, and will display its flashing blue rings as a warning. Just to be clear – the flashing blue rings do NOT mean “pick me up and take a picture of me – look how cute and little I am?” But if you are stupid enough to pick one up  – it can kill you if it makes contact with your skin and delivers the venom. That is, if you do not receive medical help, like right the f— away! Guess what? Australian tide pools tend to be located pretty far away from any place that would be able to give you the medical attention you need – and it’s a bit hard to operate that smart phone (if you are fortunate enough to have a signal) once the paralysis sets in!

The tetrodotoxin venom, which is actually a cocktail of lots of other deadly, deadly chemicals-  secreted by blue-ringed octopuses can, if untreated, cause nausea, respiratory arrest, heart failure, paralysis and blindness. If death occurs, it is usually caused by suffocation, due to paralysis of the diaphragm.

Have I convinced you to stay the hell away from Australia? And for the love of God, if you go to Australia, can you at least restrain yourself from wading in a tide pool? Good! If potentially getting bitten by a blue-ringed octopus is just far too much excitement for you to handle, then why not just learn about blue-ringed octopus mating rituals (which are as bizarre and strange as you expect). Let’s talk about cephalopod sex! Kids, gather around on the rug!

Sexy, sexual, cephalopod sex. Say that three times fast! Not pictured, waterproof bluetooth speaker playing “mood music.”

First off, the dude octopus puts on some sexy mood music, perhaps Sade’s Smooth Operator, if you’re into ’80s adult contemporary hits, or Ginuwine’s Pony if you’re a little more “urban” and dig the mid ’90s jams. Fess up…was this “mood music” in your dorm room? Let’s say the octopus is old school, maybe he’ll put on some Barry White, Rufus or Average White Band. Is the horny octopus a goth of auld? How about nine inch nails’ cover of Queen’s Get Down, Make Love?  Get that lady cephalopod in the MOOD! Maybe he unsuccessfully tries lighting some candles (duh, they’re underwater). And ah…maybe he’s not trying to woo a lady octopus, after all!

From wikipedia:

“Males will attempt copulation with members of their own species regardless of sex or size, but interactions between males are most often shorter in duration and end with the mounting octopus withdrawing the hectocotylus without packet insertion or struggle.”

But if a male octopus DOES decide to get busy with a lady octopus, he will start out by caressing her with his hectocotylus. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Until you realize that this is just a fancy word for something that, in a human, would be a nut sack – and schlong. A hectocotylus is a specialized arm that holds octopus sperm, which he will eventually use to grab her, and later, inserts the hectocotylus repeatedly into her mantle – until she can’t take any more. In some species, she will actually have to remove the male octopus while he is banging her, which is her way of saying, “Get off me, bro! I need to get cleaned up so I can go to work!”


Scotty, from Star Trek.

Then she lays the eggs, and stays with them – and cares for them – until they hatch, keeping the eggs tucked under one of her arms, all the while not eating anything. Then the babies hatch, and she dies. Seriously, she just dies! It’s all part of the cephalopod circle of life – her babies will be ready to make more babies within a year. And there are few things cuter than a baby octopus…


Baby octopus. I’m just going to leave this here.

And with that, I’m going to end this blog on a cute – yet kinda depressing note (sorry for that)! To attempt to counteract it, here’s a funny octopus sex ed pic…


The more you know! 🙂

3 thoughts on “Judge It By Its Size, Do you? Meet the Blue-Ringed Octopus – The Cute Little ‘Pod That Can – and Will – Kill You!

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