ZPi | Cephalopods
ZPi Logo "Serving the Paranoid
since 1997"
Lyle Zapato

Life in the Southern Isles

Lyle Zapato | 2012-12-29.5270 LMT

Life in the Southern Isles; or, Scenes and Incidents in the South Pacific and New Guinea (1876) by Rev. William Wyatt Gill, published by the Religious Tract Society of London.

Since this is one of the earliest reports of tree octopuses of which I can reasonably own an original -- I don't think I could afford an original scroll by Athenaeus of Naucratis if one even existed -- and Gill was the first to bring Polynesian tree octopuses to the unfortunately disinterested attention of the scientific establishment, I acquired a copy for my collection.

I thought I'd share the cover since it's fairly attractive (although sadly devoid of tree octopuses). Click the image above for a larger composit scan of the front, back, and spine. You can also read the scanned text on Google Books.

Read more...

Lyle Zapato

Octopus Wristlet Fad Of 1915

Lyle Zapato | 2012-02-18.6599 LMT | Retro | Fashion | Cascadia

I've mentioned the use of taxidermied tree octopuses as hat decorations and octopus-inspired hair-styles, now here's another example of octopuses as objects of fashion. From the April 23, 1915 edition of the Tacoma Times:

Beach Belle Uses Octopus As Wristlet In Weird Sand Dance

Los Angeles, April 23. — Probably the strangest pet ever adopted by the shrinking sex is the little octopus carried by Miss Diana Rico, a belle of the beaches here. Whenever she goes bathing or strolling along the sands Miss Rico carries the tentacled mascot wrapped about her wrist.

This weird creature of the deep gave Miss Rico an inspiration for a new tango step, "The Dance of the Octopus," which created a sensation when she first stepped its sinuous figures on the beach.

When not clinging to the arm of its mistress, the baby octopus creeps about a little tank built especially for it.

Diana Rico
Miss Diana Rico and Her Weird Pet.

While we're there, let's see what else was on the front page of the Tacoma Times that day...

Read more...

Lyle Zapato

King Kong vs. The Tree Octopus Menace

Lyle Zapato | 2011-09-03.7618 LMT | Entertainment

There seems to be a recurring theme in Japan of primates driving would-be tree-octopuses back into the sea. I've already covered tree-dwelling hominoids called Kijimunaa that guard the mangroves of Okinawa from the constant threat of octopus invasion, and monkey military retaliations against forest-melon-raiding octopuses, but here's an example on a much larger scale...

Publicity still from King Kong vs Godzilla
(Click for Flickr set with more stills...)

Read more...

Lyle Zapato

Summon A Tree Octopus In Minecraft

Lyle Zapato | 2011-08-03.1520 LMT | Entertainment

There are now tree octopuses in the popular indie game Minecraft!

Well, sort of... some Minecraft modders just posted a plugin for the third-party Bukkit server modding system that allows players to summon a tree octopus by placing a gold block on top of a tree.

The tree octopus is actually a stock Minecraft squid, but the game's squid only have eight appendages, so they can't really be squid and must therefore be octopuses (then again, they also have teeth, so perhaps we can't rely on anatomical accuracy.)

The mechanism to summon them was inspired by my advice to a young reader asking about tree octopus donations. However, the modders (or at least one of them, Camcade) seem to be confused about what I wrote and think it's a scam:

The website instructed people to help save the tree octopus by putting money up in the trees so that the tree octopuses could make nests out of the bills. Of course, this was a scam just to get people to put money in trees for other people to take.

We here at ZPi have always advised handing bills directly to tree octopuses, not just leaving them in trees where unscrupulous passersby may deprive needy cephalopods of nesting material. If some shady website is advising you to just throw money into the woods, please report it to your local chapter of the Sasquatch Militia.

Lyle Zapato

Osaru no Kantai (The Monkey Fleet)

Lyle Zapato | 2011-08-01.7800 LMT | Entertainment

Continuous army of octopuses marches into the forest (looping animated GIF)

It has been theorized that species of tree octopuses around the world originally took to the land, and eventually the trees, in search of tasty vegetation, such as ara flowers, tree pitch, and olives. The Japanese have a similar theory: octopuses came into the forests in search of monkey melons. Unfortunately for these would-be tree-octopuses, the monkeys fought back.

Read more...

Lyle Zapato

Dixon's Tree Ammonite

Lyle Zapato | 2011-07-17.7070 LMT | Art | Nature

Dougal Dixon's book The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution (1988) imagines what life would look like if the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event had not happened and non-avian dinosaurs had continued evolving over the last 65 million years.

Besides the eponymous new dinosaurs, one of his hypothetical creatures inhabiting the Austral­asian Realm is the coconut grab (Nuctoceras litureperus), a type of tree-climbing ammonite:

The coconut grab is an unusual ammonite in that it can spend much of its time out of the water crawling about on land. On many of the tropical islands of the ocean it can crawl up the beach and eat coconuts, and even climb trees to find the nuts when there are none available lying in the sand or washed up on the shore.

It's preyed upon by a flightless, tree-climbing pterosaur called a shorerunner.

In Dixon's hypothetical present, tropical tree octopuses apparently never had a chance to evolve, which is probably just as well for the dinosaurs.

Read more...

Lyle Zapato

Review: The Lost Cavern

Lyle Zapato | 2011-06-06.0875 LMT | Entertainment
cover

The Lost Cavern and Other Stories of the Fantastic (Vanguard Press, 1948) by H.F. Heard (a.k.a. Gerald Heard) is a collection of four short stories: "The Lost Cavern", "The Cup", "The Thaw Plan", and "The Chapel of Ease". (Synopses with spoilers follow...)

My initial interest was in "The Thaw Plan" because it briefly mentions a tree octopus, but the story's setting and nascent-Cold-War perspective are interesting in their own right: induced global warming is used by both super powers as a strategic weapon, resulting in a future Earth where humanity has split into two separate species living at either pole, separated from any interaction by an impenetrable, primeval, equatorial jungle -- home to tree octopuses, naturally.

The first part of the story sets the world-building in motion. The year is 1975, 30 years into W.W.2.A. (World War Second Armistice). The world is divided into two super powers, the US and the USSR. The seat of power in the Soviet Union has moved East, to the city of Karakorum. The Chinese have taken control, turning Moscow into a Holy City and elevating the Russian people to the highest (and most powerless) level of "Ritual Rank".

Many in the West see this as a good thing since "a Chinaman never likes war". But the new leader of the USSR, Supreme Commissar Yang, has a devious plot to diminish -- figuratively and literally -- the West (including the Russians): they will use atomic power to melt the tundra, causing sea levels to rise 100 feet, flooding most of the world but leaving the tablelands of Tibet and China uninundated, from which the USSR will rule as the lone superpower.

Read more...

Lyle Zapato

Oscar III, Mountain-Climbing Octopus

Lyle Zapato | 2011-05-28.8810 LMT | Cascadia | Field Trips

Cascadia's beloved musician, businessman, and punny raconteur, Ivar Haglund, was well-known, both locally and internationally, for his publicity stunts promoting his aquarium and seafood restaurant. Here's a stunt I had not heard of before:

In 1947, Ivar organized an expedition to scale the newly discovered Mount Miller -- starting from the top! Mount Miller, you see, is underwater, part of the Gulf of Alaska Seamount Province. His expedition team consisted of one brave octopus, Oscar III, who was to be dropped from a boat over the seamount, attached to a two-mile line. Oscar's mission: bring back deep-sea edelweiss to prove he had scaled to the base.

From an April 4th United Press story (reprinted in The Portsmouth Times, p. 6):

OSCAR OCTOPUS TO TRY 'MOUNT'

Underwater 'Mountain' Subject Of Novel Trip

SEATTLE, April 4—A mountain-climbing octopus, Oscar III, and his trainer, Ivar Haglund, were en route today to "climb" the mountain-infested waters of the Alaskan gulf.

The 11,350-foot underwater "Mt." Miller was their destination.

Discovery of giant submarine peaks 900 miles northwest of Seattle by the U. S. coast and geodetic survey, is responsible for Mr. Haglund's latest stunt.

"Man still has not invented a diving suit to withstand the terrific pressures involved," said Mr. Haglund. So the actual climbing will be done by a "scientifically trained octopus".

According to the balding aquarium-owner, Oscar's greatest hazard in scaling Mt. Miller is that he must start from the top and "climb" down.

The incentive for Oscar—and proof that he reaches the base of Mt. Miller—will be his favorite dish, sea-edelweiss, which grows at great depths.

When the expedition glides over the peak of Mt. Miller Oscar will be dropped overboard leashed to a two-mile wire.

If he comes back with a sprig of sea-edelweiss clutched in any one of his arms—it's likely even Mr. Haglund will eat it.

Read more...

Lyle Zapato

Why There Are No Tree Octopuses On Okinawa

Lyle Zapato | 2011-05-15.6920 LMT | Sasquatch Issues | Art | Nature

Unlike here in Cascadia where octopuses live in the trees and are preyed upon by Sasquatch, on Okinawa, hominoids are arboreal and fear octopuses.

Three scared Kijimuna in banyan trees, menacing octopus in water below.

The above painting by Matthew Meyer -- part of his A-Yokai-A-Day series that you can buy as a print -- depicts Kijimuna in trees fearful of an octopus threatening to climb up after them.

Kijimuna (キジムナー) are a species of arboreal island hominoids native to Okinawa. Their diminutive size compared to Sasquatch, Yeti, etc. is probably a result of insular dwarfism and their partial baldness a likely adaptation to the subtropical climate. They live mostly in banyan trees, but will venture onto the ground to go fishing or interact with Humans. Human-Kijimuna relations have been strained in the past due to arson and flatulence. Human Okinawans often accuse Kijimuna of mischievousness, but this is probably Human chauvinism; we rarely get to hear the Kijimuna viewpoint in Okinawan media. (For more on Kijimuna, see Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai's Kijimuna page or the Japanese Wikipedia.)

But what's the deal with the octopus? In his blog post about his painting, Meyer partially explains:

One final fact of note about kijimuna — they loathe octopuses! I am so far unable to discover why they hate them so much, but the lowly octopus is the one thing they cannot stand. Kijimuna will avoid them at all costs, so keeping octopuses around is a fairly foolproof way for humans to avoid potential kijimuna-related troubles.

I think Meyer has inadvertently shown in his painting the reason for octopusophobia among Kijimuna: a dispute over territory and resources.

As I have noted before (see: "The Ara-Eaters: Tree Octopuses Of Polynesia" and "Nicharongorong: Tree Octopuses of Micronesia"), octopuses in the South Pacific are drawn to trees, and many have adopted arboreal or semi-arboreal lifestyles. On Okinawa, this arboreal niche has already been occupied by the Kijimuna, denying octopuses there the "green embrace" they so desire.

Octopuses are persistent and determined creatures. They would simply not abide not being able to tentaculate through the banyans, nibbling on the figs. (Athenæus in his Deipnosophistae relates that besides olive trees Mediterranean octopuses [polypus] "have also been discovered clinging to such fig-trees as grow near the seashore, and eating the figs, as Clearchus tells us, in his treatise on those Animals which live in the Water." [Source.] Presumably Pacific octopuses would likewise be fond of banyan figs.) Octopuses are also greedy (a trait noted in Japanese culture -- see: Kure Kure Takora), so sharing the trees is not an option.

Kijimuna, hanging as they are in the way of the octopuses' sense of Arboreal Manifest Destiny, would surely attract octopodous belligerence. It's not unreasonable to assume that centuries, perhaps millennia, of stealthy attacks and attempted incursions into their trees would have instilled in the Kijimuna a healthy, and justified, paranoia about octopuses.

Lyle Zapato

How To Hypnotize An Octopus

Lyle Zapato | 2011-05-06.8839 LMT | Mind Control | Defensive Techniques | Nature

A while back I posted a book excerpt explaining how to defend oneself against a charging land octopus. It advised throttling them at the neck. But it turns out there's a more effective, and less violent, method to deal with belligerent octopuses: hypnotism.

Hypnotized octopus in hand.
Fig. 1: The proper Danilewskian method for
hypnotizing small to medium sized octopuses.

Read more...