Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Can a Teenager Befriend an Octopus?


The idea that humans and mollusks could have any kind of relationship is remarkable when considering the evolutionary distance between the species. Yet watch the playful relationship between a teenager, Laurel, and an octopus, Heidi.


- Now, now you say hello to me.

- [David S.] Octopuses have up to 240 suckers on their arms, each has sensitive chemical receptors.

Heidi can touch and taste Laurel at the same time.

- She just lightly jetted at me.

She doesn't want me to leave.


- [David S.] Octopus also have estrogen like humans do.

Is it possible that Heidi can be detecting the estrogen on Laurel's skin?

Does Heidi maybe taste the difference between males and females?

- Heidi.

(laughter) Her arm is now up my sleeve.

That's fun.

Heidi, you're being naughty.

She's lifting herself almost all the way out of the tank right now.

Come here, come here.

Come here, yeah.

Oh, now I'm wet.

- [David S.] The idea of Laurel having any kind of relationship with a mollusk is extraordinary when you think about it.

This is an animal that has 600 million years of distance from us.

That's almost as deep as any divide can be between two animals.

With three hearts, no bones, a beak with a venomous bite, and a gut that runs through its brain, to one point of view the octopus is completely alien.

(gentle music)


PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.