Ask the Aquarium: Can An Octopus Hear?
BY SHERRY WHITE
Special to The Pilot
Q. Can an octopus hear?
A. Yes, but not so much.
This eight-armed wonder has a highly developed nervous system and excellent eyesight, but the scientific community has long debated whether it has an auditory sense.
Today there's proof, at least for the octopus and squid, that they can indeed hear.
To register sound, an octopus uses a sac-like structure called a stratocyst. The stratocyst contains a mineralized mass and sensitive hairs that allow detection of sounds of certain frequencies. Squid can hear an even wider range of sounds.
Having determined that octopuses can hear, what do they listen to? The ocean is a raucous realm. Even though humans can't hear much underwater, noisemakers range from fish vocalizations and dolphin clicks to whale whistles and boat engine roars.
Scientists theorize octopuses may listen for sounds of predators, such as seals, large fish, eels or sharks, or perhaps eavesdrop on prey.
These intelligent animals may even communicate with each other. Studies to solve this fascinating mystery continue.
The state operates three public aquariums: one in Pine Knoll Shores, another at Fort Fisher and a third on Roanoke Island. The aquariums are administered by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and are designed to inspire appreciation and conservation of North Carolina's aquatic environments.
For more information about the Aquariums, visit www.ncaquariums.com, or call (800) 832-FISH.
Sherry White works for the public affairs office of the N.C. Aquariums.
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