Freshwater Octopus

Medium-sized CePHALOPOD occasionally found in rivers of North America.

Physical description: Length, 2-3 feet. Distribution: Licking River, Kentucky; Kanawha and Blackwater Rivers, West Virginia; Ohio River, at Louisville and Cincinnati.

Significant sightings: On December 24, 1933, Robert Trice and R. M. Saunders were fishing on the Kanawha River near Charleston, West Virginia, when they hauled in a 3-foot octopus. Recent research by Mark Hall has proven this incident a hoax.

On January 30, 1959, a gray octopus was seen surfacing and moving onto the bank of the Licking River near Covington, Kentucky.

On November 19, 1999, a dead octopus was found on the bank of the Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio State Park, Jeffersonville, Indiana, on some fossil beds. It was identified as either a Caribbean armstripe octopus (Octopus burryi) or a Bumblebee two-stripe octopus (O. filosus), both Atlantic species, and was not in a state of decomposition. Both are available through aquariums.

Present status: All known cephalopod species are exclusively marine. Octopuses, even more than squid, require high salinity levels. Possible explanations:

(1) Discarded aquarium pets.

(2) Wandering, senescent individuals at the end of their life cycle, though the Ohio River is a bit far to stray in essentially toxic water.

(3) An unknown species of octopus adapted to a low-saline environment.

Sources: "Octopus Caught by Two Boatmen on Kanawha River," Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette, December 25, 1933; "Octopus Story Just a Hoax," Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette, December 29, 1933; "More Details Needed,"

freshwater octopus 181

Doubt, no. 16 (1946): 242; "Displaced Critters," Doubt, no. 48 (1955): 341; Chad Arment and Brad LaGrange, "A Freshwater Octopus?" North American BioFortean Review 2, no. 3 (December 2000): 47-51,; Mark A. Hall, "Mysteries of West Virginia," Wonders 6, no. 4 (December 2001): 113-126.

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