OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

OSU to Release “Reuben” Back into Pacific Ocean on May 22

05/16/2007

NEWPORT, Ore. – One of the most popular denizens of Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center will bid farewell on Tuesday, May 22, when staff members release the giant Pacific octopus known as “Reuben” back into the ocean.

Reuben will leave his tank at the Newport facility’s Visitors Center at 11 a.m. and travel with his handlers to the south jetty of Yaquina Bay, where he will be released at about 11:30 a.m.

“Thousands of Oregon children and adults became more interested in the Pacific Ocean and its environment and inhabitants each year because of the Visitors Center, and Reuben is usually the first live creature they see,” said Bill Hanshumaker, a public marine education specialist at the OSU center. “We’ll miss him, but he should be happy in his new home.”

Reuben actually used to be known as “Ruby,” until he reached breeding age and began developing a hectocotylus, which is a modified tentacle male octopuses use to deliver sperm to females. It isn’t necessarily easy to identify the gender of a young octopus, Hanshumaker pointed out.

The HMSC Visitors Center has had an octopus greeting visitors for years. The staff typically tries to acquire a young, 4- to 5-pound giant Pacific octopus and keep it in captivity for 1-2 years, then release it before it reaches full breeding age. The giant Pacific octopus usually lives about 3-5 years and can grow to weights of about 100 pounds as adults. The largest Pacific octopus ever recorded was more than 31 feet from tentacle tip to tip and topped the scales at 598 pounds.

On average, the giant Pacific octopus has 240 suckers in two rows on each arm, for a total of 1,920 suckers per individual. If it uses all of its suckers at once, an octopus can generate a pulling strength of more than 700 pounds, Hanshumaker pointed out.

Fans of Reuben don’t have to worry about his tank being empty for long. HMSC Visitor Center staff members already have a replacement in quarantine. Dubbed “Wecoma,” it was named after the OSU research ship of the same name since crew members caught and donated the octopus.

No word yet on whether Wecoma is a girl or boy.