Britain is seeing a boom in octopuses after they have been spotted along Cornwall ‘s coastline this month.
Huge numbers of the slithery creature have been seen, in what experts are describing as a ‘bumper year’ for the species.
Divers and snorkellers in the Cornish waters have reported an increase in sightings of Common Octopus – also known as Octopus vulgaris – along the Lizard peninsula, southern Cornwall.
One fisherman in the village of Mevagissey reported catching a whopping 150 in a single day – compared to his usual catch of one or two a year.
Despite its name, the large species of octopus is actually a rarity in the UK.
In fact, it has been recorded in Cornwall just twice a year on average.
Now, conservationists believe that these sightings could be evidence of an octopus population boom – an event last recorded along England’s south coast more than 70 years ago.
Speaking about this new find, Matt Slater, a marine conservation officer at Cornwall Wildlife Trust said: “I got really excited when I started receiving messages from our Seasearch divers – not only because sightings of these striking animals are few and far between but because they’d seen several of them on one dive.
“They are such amazing, alien creatures – one of the most intelligent animals in our oceans – and to witness a population explosion in our local waters would be incredible.”
Furthermore, the Marine Biological Association has reported on several major octopus ‘plagues’ along the south coast of England – from Lands End to Sussex.
The first was detailed in 1899, and the most recent in the summer of 1948.
This may be, as the Cornwall Wildlife Trust explained, that female octopus lay a huge number of eggs – between 100,000 and 500,000.
Once hatched, they drift off with ocean currents and have to fend for themselves.
However, many die off, but if conditions are good they can survive.
And this may explain this year’s big increase in population.
Slater said: “We hope this is a sign that octopus populations are healthy in our Cornish waters.
“But sadly not all of our marine life is thriving.
“By taking action for wildlife and recording your marine sightings with us we can build up a picture over time and confirm if occurrences like this are a one off or if octopus populations are steadily on the rise.”
The Common Octopus is known for its large eyes, soft bag-like body and tentacles.
This monster can span up to one metre, which is just over three feet.
It is highly intelligent and an active predator.
What makes it even more interesting is that it has a secret weapon which helps it hunt – special glands produce a venom that it uses to incapacitate its prey, which is usually crabs.
Additionally, they will change colour and texture depending on their mood or the situation, making them masters of camouflage.
But like other cephalopods (a group of marine invertebrates that include octopuses, squids and cuttlefish), their populations fluctuate dramatically.
In order to adapt to their ever changing numbers, scientists are now attempting to learn more about their behaviour and abundance.
Massive population booms of octopus are uncommon but not unheard of.