This winter, IIT’s Life Sciences Building became home to a menagerie of salt-water denizens of the deep: more than 60 green crabs and a male giant Pacific octopus, Enteroctopus dofleini. The sea-nario constitutes the CRAB Lab (Creative Research in Animal Behavior) and comprises four different experiments involving students and faculty from the university’s College of Science and Letters, College of Psychology, and Armour College of Engineering.
The octopus recently received a group of three visitors in addition to the two humans with whom he is most familiar, chemistry lecturer John Terschak and undergraduate Ciaran Shaughnessy (CHEM 5th year).
“Overall, he’s an extremely happy octopus and very social,” Terschak says about the museum-quality cephalopod that was captured in waters off Vancouver, British Columbia. “Normally, they’re a brownish-red color. If he’s angry, he turns red and if he’s afraid or not feeling well, he turns extremely pale or light tan. The bumps and horns of texture all over his body is another good sign that he’s happy.”
The group delights as the octopus furls and unfurls his arms, splaying out like a starfish across the aquarium glass and then rolling across his bed of royal-blue gravel—a circus performer without a trapeze. As the photographer moves in for the animal’s close-up shot, the octopus responds by changing texture as if cautious, but only momentarily.