ESPN would have you believe that Spain won the World Cup, and sure, there's some merit to that. But the true hero of the 2010 games was Paul, the "psychic" German octopus who correctly predicted the winner of Germany's seven matches as well as the championship between Spain and the Netherlands. Aquarium staff lowered identical food buckets, each containing a competing country's flag, and Paul first ate from the bucket of the country destined to win.
Now, can an octopus actually be psychic? And if Paul can have otherworldly powers, can't other octopi? I spoke with the South Florida Science Museum
's Theresa Kewley, who purchased Ollie the Octopus for the museum this past May. "What I believe is the octopus was intelligent enough to be trained," she said. More after the jump:
Ollie the Octopus swims headfirst.
Courtesy Theresa Kewley
Tell us about Ollie. Who is he? What does he want?
Ollie is a common brown octopus. When stretched out, he's about ten to 12 inches long. He loves to eat: clam strips on occasion, but his favorite food is live fish. Octopi are predators and extremely intelligent. If I had to guess, I'd say he's six months old. You have to get octopi young, because they don't have long life spans. The male octopus dies shortly after mating with the female. So Ollie's by himself.
Guess Paul won't be getting any action off his new fame. Does Ollie do any cool tricks we could be bragging about?
He's a little escape artist. On top of his tank, there's a cover, and we put three large rocks on top of it. Octopi are notorious for using their arms to break out of their tanks and sneak into other tanks, wipe out the fish in those tanks, then go back to their own tanks and act like they had nothing to do with it. Because they don't have skeletons, octopi can squish through tiny cracks.
But can an octopus be psychic? Do you believe in Paul's powers?
What I believe is the octopus is intelligent enough to be trained. I don't think Paul has a sixth psychic sense. I believe Paul has success getting a scallop out of a certain box, and maybe the person in charge of Paul is a really awesome soccer fan. That person might put the juiciest scallop in the box of the team he thinks will win.
It could all be a scam?!
Trust me, if the boxes were left there long enough, he would go after both of them. Two teams can't win! That's just my thought. However, because I love the octopus and think they're so intelligent, I like to believe Paul has the inside scoop on the World Cup.
Maybe he does. Plus it's good publicity for octopi like Ollie, right?
When my daughter sees lizards outside, she'll say, "Oh, it's the Geico lizard!" When kids and grown people know an animal spokesman, they'll relate to that animal and become a protector of the animal. So I think Paul has garnered some new fans of the octopus.