Smartypants Octopus Floods Santa Monica Aquarium

SANTA MONICA, Calif.  -- This "who-done-it" story has legs. Eight of 'em.

The mystery began when staff arrived at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium on Tuesday morning to find their offices soaked with hundreds of gallons of sea water.

After some investigation, it seems the aquarium's resident two-spotted octopus, a tiny female known for being curious and gregarious with visitors, is the culprit.

The main evidence against the octopus was the dislodged tube in its 10-gallon tank and the steady stream of water flowing out of the tank, said aquarist Brianne Emhiser. The octopus apparently tugged on a valve, allowing water to overflow.

"We're estimating we lost a few hundred gallons of sea water onto the aquarium floor," said Emhiser, who was among the first people on the scene.

The suspected cephalopod weighs about a pound. Its head is about the size of a football and its tentacles are twice as long, aquarium spokeswoman Randi Parent said.

"She's done this before, but this is the first time she's done it while no one was around," Parent said.

The octopus is a small, nocturnal species native to the California coast, named for the two eyelike spots just below its eyes.
Octopuses are generally intelligent and agile but this particular one is especially outgoing and mischievous, Parent said.

"Some are very shy. When you have them on display, they'll hid under a rock. But she likes to interact with people walking by. If you put your finger on the glass she'll follow your finger," she said.

No sea life was harmed by the flood, but the water reached the aquarium's offices, where newly installed eco-friendly floors got drenched.

"Even after two hours of cleaning up, we still have salt water seeping up between the tiles every step we take," said public programs manager Tara Crow. "It's actually quite comical. I think the whole staff is still laughing about the ordeal."

Staff rushed to clean up the wet mess before the first school group was scheduled to arrive for a marine-themed field trip.

When the octopus greeted the first-graders, it seemed oblivious to the massive mess it caused just hours before, Parent said.
"She's already been fooling with the valve again," she said.

In 1994, a giant octopus was found dead in an empty tank at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium after the 58-pound animal apparently pulled out a tube and drained the tank during the night.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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