Octopuses are opportunistic hunters and well-equipped for self-defense. Along with their high level of intelligence, these animals are formidable attackers in their natural habitat and have both the physical strength and adaptations to effectively protect themselves and take down prey. Though they aren't known for attacking humans, some octopuses are equipped to cause significant harm to or even kill a man.
Chameleons have a reputation for blending in with their surroundings, but the octopus is just as capable. Octopuses are excellent at camouflaging themselves, changing their color and even adopting complex patterns in order to "disappear" in their environment. They use this to their advantage when hunting, laying in wait until prey passes too close, at which point they emerge from hiding and surprise their unwitting victim with a sneak attack.
Octopuses are equipped with poisonous venom that helps them paralyze, weaken and kill their opponents. While not all octopuses have venom strong enough to seriously harm a human, exceptions like the blue-ringed octopus -- which is only 1.5 inches long -- are poisonous enough to kill. A venomous bite from a blue-ringed octopus can kill a human by causing asphyxiation. By paralyzing or killing its prey with poison, the octopus has a much easier time turning a foe into a meal.
Like squids, octopuses naturally produce a blank, inky liquid that they squirt into the water at will. The inky secretion serves a dual purpose. If the octopus is not prepared to fight or considers himself outmatched, he uses the ink as a distraction to temporarily blind his enemy while he escapes. When hunting, however, the octopus uses his ink as a way of disorienting his prey and hiding himself while he moves in for the attack.
Once the octopus has his opponent ensnared in his tentacles, he pulls him in to attack with his No. 1 weapon: his beak. The octopus's beak is hard and sharp, like a parrot's, and he uses it to pierce, rip and tear at his prey. The beak is strong enough to puncture a mollusk's shell, creating a hole through which he can suck out the creature inside.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.