Science Facts

Why Do Octopus Squirt Ink? – How Do They It?

Octopus Ink

Octopus are mollusks that are invertebrates. It means they don’t have spines, and mollusk means soft. They are soft animals with no spine. The arms of an octopus cover the bottom of them. The bottom of every arm is covered in the suction cups that are most commonly called suckers. Without suckers, the octopus wouldn’t survive. Two big ways they use their suckers are for moving around and catching things to eat.

But how do they protect themselves? They save themselves by using their cephalopod ink! Octopuses constantly learning about their environments and use that information to help them solve problems. Most scientists believe they have a short-term memory, but the point is these squishy sea creatures have a lot going on and are smarter than we thought.

Why do Octopus squirt ink?

Octopus squirts their ink for creating confusion to predators and sending alarms nearby their colony to seek help. They can squirt ink when they feel threatened. It also acts as a visual alarm cue for others in the area. Scientists think the ink may also serve as a chemical alarm so that their brothers or cousins can help them. Some octopuses can produce luminous ink that contains light. It comes out as glowing ropes or something resembling a shower of sparks. They used it to blind or distract a potential predator. The evolution of ink helps them to survive.

Their ink is called cephalopod ink. Cephalopods release ink as an escape mechanism to clear the misconception that they are used as an offense. It is located between their gills and their breathing organs. Their ink is dispersed more widely when they use their siphon, a tube-like structure in them. Cephalopod ink is of dark color because of the coloring pigment melanin, the same pigment in us. It also contains mucus.

  • The ink is a mixture created by two separate glands: the funnel organ and the ink gland.

The ink gland is responsible for the actual color, like a black-brown hue, courtesy of melanin’s pigment. The funnel organ is located in the siphon, the tube-like organ that cephalopods use to expel water, waste, and ink. It produces mucus combined with the ink gland’s pigments, and they release it into the water.

How do Octopus squirt ink?

Octopus ink is made of tyrosinase, dopamine, L-DOPA, trace amounts of amino acids, taurine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, alanine, and lysine. Octopuses and other cephalopods use it to run away from their predators, camouflage, and many other purposes. But how do they do so?

Octopuses have a mantle that contains their stomach and the mantle cavity, just a space that fills with water. They have an ink sac that creates the ink pigment. When the ink sac expels ink, it gets excreted from its anus and mixes with the water from the mantle cavity. They quickly squeeze the ink, which propels them forward and creates a cloud of confusion! They then camouflage and whoosh a save for day and life.

Can octopus ink kill you?

Their ink contains a compound called tyrosinase, which is a toxin. Suppose your eye contact with this chemical then causes a blinding irritation. You will not die, but you can lose your eye. So be careful when you visit them.


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Sources:

Hanlon, Roger T., and Messenger, ”Cephalopod Behaviour”, Cambridge University Press.
Bush, Stephanie L.; “Ink utilization by mesopelagic squid”. Marine Biology.
Caldwell, Roy. “An Observation of Inking Behavior Protecting Adult Octopus bocki from Predation by Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) Hatchlings”.

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