Cornwall

Fishy ice lollies help giant octopus Mr Tickle hunt

Giant Pacific octopus reaching for fish ice lolly
Image caption The octopus uses one of his long tentacles to reach for a fishy lolly

Fish-flavoured ice lollies are being given to a giant octopus at an aquarium in Newquay, Cornwall.

It is part of an environmental enrichment programme to encourage the creature to work for his food and utilise his natural hunting instincts.

The 2.5m (8ft) Pacific octopus has been nicknamed Mr Tickle by Blue Reef Aquarium staff.

"He loves to be tickled with the frayed ends of a rope," curator Matt Slater said.

"Giant Pacific octopus are incredible creatures and we have been able to develop a really close relationship with this particular animal."

Investigative puzzles

Giant Pacifics are the world's largest species of octopus and are found from Japan to Southern California.

They are also said to be among the cleverest members of the cephalopod family, with filmed accounts of an aquarium octopus sneaking out at night to raid nearby fish-filled displays.

The biggest recorded specimen had an arm span of 10 metres (33ft) and weighed 270kg (600lbs).

Giant Pacifics mature very quickly - going from the size of a rice grain at birth to being fully grown within the space of two years.

They only live for about four years, with both males and females dying soon after breeding.

Aquarium staff said crab, sand eels and shrimps were among Mr Tickle's particular favourite treats - all of which are now being incorporated in the giant lollies.

"He goes crazy for them - he doesn't seem to mind holding on to the freezing cold lolly at all," Mr Slater said.

"In fact he wouldn't let go and climbed almost completely out of the water with his tentacles firmly wrapped around the lolly.

"We have an ongoing programme of environmental enrichment for him which includes puzzles, toys and a variety of other objects for him to explore and investigate."

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