Spud-shaped toy a-peels to giant octopus at Hastings Blue Reef

Count Oswald, the giant Pacific octopus
Count Oswald, the giant Pacific octopus

A giant octopus at Hastings Blue Reef Aquarium has formed an unlikely attachment with a child’s toy given to him as a present on World Octopus Day (October 8th).

Much to the delight of aquarists Count Oswald the giant Pacific octopus, has fallen under the spell of Mr Potato Head.

Originally launched by Hasbro in the US back in 1952, he became popular again following his appearances, alongside Mrs Potato Head, in the Toy Story films.

Modern versions include Elvis, Batman, Luke Frywalker, Yam Solo and Darth Mash.

Blue Reef Aquarium’s Leanna Lawson said: “We’re pretty sure the makers of the toy hadn’t envisaged it being used as part of an environmental enrichment programme for a giant octopus.

“However its bright colours, strange shape and moveable parts make it fascinating for Count Oswald.

“There’s even a secret space within Mr Potato Head that allows us to hide tasty treats inside and that perhaps more than anything has resulted in him becoming such a hit.”

In the past keepers have used everything from Perspex boxes to rubber toys and even fishing floats to keep the octopus mentally active.

Giant Pacific octopuses are the world’s largest species of octopus and are found from Japan to Southern California. The biggest recorded specimen had an arm span of 10 metres (33ft) and weighed 270kgs (600lbs).

As well as being the largest, the giant Pacifics are also among the cleverest members of the cephalopod family.

“Count Oswald is well-known for his curiosity and intelligence. We’ve devised a series of puzzles, games and toys to ensure he’s getting the mental stimulation he needs but Mr Potato Head is definitely his favourite at the moment,” said Leanna.

Despite their intelligence giant Pacific octopuses are relatively short-lived - going from the size of a rice grain at birth to being fully grown within the space of two years.

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