Thursday, April 13, 2017

Eight-Legged Fun at the Aquarium

By Andrew Gorham, Communications Intern

If you’ve been to Save the Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium in Newport recently, you may be familiar with one of the aquarium’s smartest residents, who—for the purposes of this story—we’ll call Olly the octopus. Why, exactly, is Olly one of the smartest? According to some studies, octopuses have the same problem-solving skills as five-year-old humans! With their intelligence and eight legs, octopuses can open jars and bottles filled with food. Also, just like five-year-olds, Olly is very curious about everything and loves to play. “Every octopus is unique in personality… [Olly] is extremely curious and active,” says Exploration Center and Aquarium director Adam Kovarsky.

Because of his curiosity, Olly was recently moved to the larger Big Fish of the Bay exhibit so he could have more to explore! In his new home, he can roam freely and put his curiosity to good use. Olly enjoys spending most of his time crawling among the rocks and on the walls of the tank and playing with the toys that the friendly aquarium staff give him to play with. Olly is even so nice that he sometimes likes to share his toys with others. “Today [Olly] gave one of my interns a Lego structure that we gave him to play with a day ago,” Adam proudly proclaimed. What a nice guy!

The curiosity and intelligence of Olly and other octopuses can sometimes get them into sticky situations, which is exactly how Olly ended up at the Aquarium. He was brought to the Aquarium after being hauled up in a fish trap in the Rhode Island Sound, off the southern coast of Rhode Island. Despite his initial misfortune of being caught, we’re happy to now have Olly at the Exploration Center and Aquarium. His curiosity and friendliness bring so much positivity to the Aquarium, and everyone wishes they could have as much fun as Olly does.

If you visit Olly at the Aquarium, he may first appear to be missing from the tank. Make sure to look very closely before assuming Olly is out of sight though. He may be right in front of you without you even knowing! Olly and other octopuses possess the ability to change the colors, patterns and even textures of their skin to match their environment. In the wild, this helps them defend against other animals looking for a tasty octopus meal. They can also change the color of their skin to talk with or warn other octopuses of danger. How cool is that? There’s no creature truly as fascinating as Olly at the Exploration Center and Aquarium, and we’re so happy to have him.

Not only are we happy to have Olly at the Exploration Center and Aquarium, but we are happy to see that Olly and other octopuses call the Bay and surrounding waters home. The octopus is a vital part of Narragansett Bay’s ecosystem. Their presence indicates a healthy food web, as they are top predators and also an important food source for many shark species, seals, and fish. On top of that, they are indicative of good water quality in the Bay. Having Olly at the Aquarium is a great way to spread the word about keeping Narragansett Bay healthy and clean.

Olly and his octopus friends tend to come and go frequently at Save The Bay’s Exploration Center and Aquarium, so visit and say hello to Olly and learn more about him and the Bay while you still can! Our winter hours (Labor Day–Memorial Day) are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We will also be open daily from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. for April school vacation, April 14–April 23. The Exploration Center and Aquarium is located at 175 Memorial Blvd., Newport, Rhode Island 02840.

You can even feed Olly and see him in action along with sharks, skates, and many more animals at our Feeding Frenzy events that are held on the third Thursday of each month, from 5–6 p.m. General admission is $10; call 401-324-6020 to register.