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Watch pet octopus complete complex obstacle course, earning her return to home in the wild

Sashimi showed Mark Rober she could thrive in the ocean after getting used to being hand-fed at the pet store.

octopus in an underwater maze

Sashimi had to push buttons and move objects out of the way to get to her goal.

When you start listing the kinds of animals people keep as pets, "octopus" may not even make the list. But some people do try to keep the smart cephalopods as pets, and some pet stores do sell them.

YouTube science and engineering educator Mark Rober found this out first hand when he procured his pet octopus, Sashimi, from a pet store. After some research, he found out that octopuses (yes, "octopuses" is just as acceptable as "octopi") are not bred in captivity, which means Sashimi was taken from the ocean. As he says, he was "hit with the startling realization" that he had unintentionally become "the bad guy from Finding Nemo."


To make things right again, Rober found out from the pet store exactly where Sashimi had come from and set out to determine whether she would be able to go back home and live in the ocean again after becoming accustomed to being hand-fed at the pet store. Returning her to the wild wouldn't exactly be thoughtful or kind if she couldn't feed herself, so Rober constructed a maze for Sashimi with some delicious shrimp—her favorite food—at the end to see if she could figure out how to get to them.

"The idea was that if she could figure out and remember how to solve an obstacle course maze, then I would be assured that she could figure out and remember her early days hunting in the ocean and we could send her back home with confidence," shared Rober.

So in classic Mark Rober fashion, he constructed a complex underwater maze for Sashimi to navigate. And as he explained how she figured out each obstacle in the course, he also shared some fascinating facts about octopuses, such as:

- Their ability to color and shape-shift is unmatched in the animal world, with the ability to mimic larger, more predatory animals

- Their blood is blue because it's cooper-based, which is more efficient in cold water environments.

- If they lose an arm, they can regrow it completely, and you won't be able to tell it's any different than the original.

- Octopuses are the closest thing we have to intelligent alien life on Earth, in that octopus intelligence evolved independently of the vertebrate creatures we associate with animal intelligence.

- They have twice the number of neurons as a cat, but only a third of them are in their brain. The other 2/3 are in their arms, giving them the ability not just to taste and smell but also to think and act with their arms, independently of their brain.

Watch Sashimi make her way through Rober's maze, which took her about a month to master.

Rober's ability to educate and entertain at the same time without overdoing either one is part of why he has nearly 30 million followers on YouTube. But his willingness to drive 8 hours to return Sashimi to her home so she could live out the rest of her short life in the wild is part of it, too. It's one thing to study an octopus in a maze simply for the fun of it; it's another to know it's being done in service to the animal itself.

Well done, Sashimi. We hope you find plenty of shrimp to nosh on now that you're home once again.

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