Guess what’s new at the Marine Life Center in Bellingham

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.

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.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty