Monday, November 23, 2009

Death by Octopus - A Lobster's Fate

You’d think that being a lobster would make you pretty much invincible on the reefs of the Caribbean. This is possibly except where humans are concerned, who can simply pick you up and drop you in a pot of boiling water. But generally lobsters would be invulnerable, you’d think. They’re pretty heavily armoured. Their carapace is hard and covered with nasty spines. And some species have those fearsome-looking claws - you don’t want to get the wrong side of them whatever your size.

But then you probably haven’t reckoned with an octopus. These animals are fearsome, and spooky, worthy of a science fiction movie really. Each of its thousands of suckers has admirable sucking power, so it can grapple you and drag you down and it can change colour faster than any animal alive. It is even a shape shifter, making itself look like a sea snake or a lion fish with ease. Of course octopi have run riot in human imagination, which has pictured them large enough to sink a ship, but actually most are relatively small.

Not that this much consolation to your average lobster. And here’s a macabre thought. Imagine you’re an average lobster on your rounds, picking over the reef, when a massive blanket descends on you from above. It envelopes you. If you were a fish you would be dispatched with a peck that would break your spine. But for the lobster there is a nastier fate in store. All it can do is to wait - like a medieval knight unhorsed, in a suit of armour so immobilising that the first attacker will simply pull the visor aside and thrust a dagger into his eye. In the lobster’s case you must wait for the octopus’s incredibly sharp beak to peck a hole in your head, after which it will inject venom that will turn your brain to mush.

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