A few years ago I was visiting my brother and his little family down in Florida. He had to work one day I was there, so I got in a car and drove a couple hours down to Sanibel Island, a lovely gorgeous place I wish I could afford to live year round. On one of the beaches, I encountered a small red baby octopus walking around in the shells and driftwood. There were a lot of hungry seabirds around, and I just couldn’t stomach the thought of one of them eating this cool little guy, so when he climbed on a large shell I scooped up the shell and carried him to the water.
By the time we got to the water he had climbed off the shell and onto my hand. I thought he would let go of my hand and go swimming off into the ocean once I put him in the water, but no dice. He was so small, I was really amazed at how strong his sticky little tentacles were. I gently swished my hand around in the water, hoping to dislodge him. Instead I started to feel a tiny pinching feeling in my pinkie finger, and I wondered “Is he biting me?” It very quickly became apparent that yes, he was in fact biting me, and it really really hurt despite his small size. So I swished my hand around a bit less gently, and eventually he let go and swam off.
Once he was gone I inspected my finger and found a small dot of a bite surrounded by a puffy white doughnut. There was a tingling sensation in my finger and up my forearm, which I discovered was covered in a faint rash. I sent my brother a text: Are octopi poisonous? I didn’t have a smart phone at the time, and since my brother was at work I figured he could look it up on his computer, but instead he just texted back: No clue. So, wondering if I should be alarmed, I drove the two hours back to his house, hoping that there would be a hospital or clinic en route if I needed it.
It turns out that in fact yes, all octopuses have venom, but how dangerous this venom is to humans varies by species. I’m happy to report that other than a lingering pain in my finger for weeks, I suffered no real damage from my rescue attempt, and would gladly do it again, though this time perhaps with a large piece of driftwood.
Although, when I told this story to a coworker, he told me that I should’ve just walked on by and not interfered.
“It’s the circle of life,” he said.
“Not on my watch,” I replied.
Here is a photo of the baby octopus in question, which to date has received nearly 10,000 views on Flickr:
And, to the title of this post, here is what Google tells me is a visually similar image:
Seems about right.