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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Poisonous Octopi In Japan

According to a Yomiuri Shimbun (Yomiuri Newspaper) article I read on-line on May 30, 2012, an unfamiliar sea creature is making an appearance in Japan - one that carries tetrodotoxin, the same deadly poison present in the fugu blowfish.

The article says that poisonous hyomon-dako or blue-ringed octopus, which inhabits mainly tropical and semitropical zones living in tidal pools and coral reefs in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, are being found in the Kumano-nada area off the coast of southern Mie-ken (Mie Prefecture).

Editorial Rant #1: Japan - It's A Wonderful Rife is unsure why this is rare. A bit of research either not included or not done by the Yomiuri notes that there are three confirmed species of Blue-ringed Octopus: Hapalochlaena:
  • Greater Blue-ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena lunulata);
  •  Southern Blue-ringed Octopus or Lesser Blue-ringed Octopus (Hapalochlaena maculosa);
  •  Blue-lined Octopus Hapalochlaena fasciata
Which type of blue-ringed octopus has actually been found in Japan? It's important to know because the Greater Blue-ringed Octopus does indeed makes its home anywhere from northern Australia up to Japan, and as far west as Sri Lanka!
Okay... the article does state that it is rare for blue-ringed octopuses to be found in the area during February and March when the weather is cold.

Editorial Rant #2: Octopuses?! They proper pluralization of octopus is 'octopi!" Why are all the media outlets in the world using the term octopuses?! Just because Ringo Starr and The Beatles screwed up doesn't mean the rest of us need to follow suit!

Editorial Rant #3: One nameless (Nameless?!) expert apparently speaking to the Yomiuri on conditions of anonymity says: "Their habitat might have expanded north due to the rise in sea temperatures caused by global warming."

An unnamed official of the Mie-ken Fisheries Research Institute in Shima found a blue-ringed octopus on the seafloor at a depth of 10 meters off the coast of Taiki, Mie Prefecture, on Feb. 16, 2012.

Another octopus was caught after being found on rocks about seven meters under water off Shima on March 7, 2012.

According to the Yomiuri article, both octopuses (octopi!!) were adults and about 10 centimeters in length from information from the Institute.

Editorial Rant #4: Great... male or female octopi? It's important in case they are breeding!

I love the Yomiuri! I used to read it every day when I lived in Japan, and I continue to do so now looking for great or interesting stories... but this one needs a few more facts.

Here's some filler I picked up from a couple of sites on-line:

As a species, the blue-ringed octopus is one of the most venomous creatures in the sea! One bite from the blue-ringed octopus can cause vomiting, paralysis and spasms. It's venom is actually strong enough to kill a human.

What really kills you is a heart attack brought on by the tetrodotoxin blocking your sodium (salt) channels, which causes paralysis and a heart attack within minutes of being exposed.

And, just so you know... there is no antidote for being bitten by a blue-ringed octopus. But you may survive if someone massages the heart and performs CPR to move the toxins through the body. I said 'may' survive.

Not bad for an octopus that is only 12 to 20 cm (5 to 8 inches) from its arm span in size!

The octopi's saliva contains a cornocopia of familiar chemicals, including: tetrodotoxin, 5-hydroxytryptamine, hyaluronidase, tyramine, histamine, tryptamine, octopamine, taurine, acetylcholine and dopamine.

The tetrodotoxin is identical to the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin in puffer fish. For reference, this toxin is 10,000x more deadly than cyanide. Sayonara.

How can you avoid being bitten by a poisonous octopus? Stay the fug away from Australia, is one way. They seem to have the market cornered on poisonous freaking creatures. Spiders, snakes, sea creatures... hell, I wouldn't be surprised it the grass was poisonous!

Seriously, though... know what you are looking at. The blue-ringed octopus is actually properly named (so I'm guessing no one in New Zealand named it, otherwise it be called a kiwi, as they call the people that, the bird that, the fruit that, their show polish that... they need a kiwi of the sea).

When resting, the octopus has yellow skin with dark brown ring... but, when the octopus is agitated, the skin darkens and iridescent blue rings or clumps of rings appear and pulsate within the maculae. Typically 50-60 blue rings cover the dorsal and lateral surfaces of the mantle.

If you should happen to see blue rings on an octopi - get the heck away!

Files compiled by Andrew Joseph

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