There’s a new resident in the Marine Life Center at the Port of Bellingham.
It’s a giant Pacific octopus, a female that was caught in a commercial shrimp pot and brought to the center for display, said Casey Pruett, center director.
An octopus is a mollusk like its cousins squid, cuttlefish, clams and oysters, Pruett said. Octopuses have eight arms covered with suction cups for touch and taste. They have a beak-like mouth similar to a bird. Their paralyzing saliva helps digest their prey, she said.
This octopus weighs about 5 pounds, and eventually will grow to 30 to 50 pounds in the tank. Then it will go back to the ocean.
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Pruett said octopuses are smart creatures and learn to recognize their handlers. Like a bear learns to recognize a cooler as a source of food, an octopus quickly learns that shrimp pots are a seafood smorgasbord, she said.
Marine Life Center has several small aquariums, a large shallow tank for crabs, anemones, nudibranchs and other creatures of the intertidal zone, plus a small touch tank for a tactile experience. All feature the fish, plants and other creatures that inhabit Bellingham Bay and the Salish Sea.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through August. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. September through May. For information, go online to marinelifecenter.org or call 360-671-2431.