Folly Beach has always drawn a diverse crowd – it’s part of Her charm. On any given day, you may run into visitors from abroad. You might meet a family from the upstate spending a sunny morning building sandcastles and body surfing, or run into beloved Folly fixtures like Debbie Pustorino and Jeff Ford combing the shores for shark’s teeth. You might even shake hands with a Lowcountry octogenarian.
It’s not every day, though, that you visit Folly and find an octopus.
But that’s exactly what happened on Sunday when Charleston resident Summer Hinson decided to bring her family from Lancaster to the beach. “My brother, Blaise, first noticed the octopus, and we were both so excited! We’ve never seen an octopus in the wild,” Summer shared.
However, it didn’t take long for the family to realize the cute little guy could potentially be in harm’s way. Trapped in a tide pool many children were playing in and around, the octopus could have unintentionally been stepped on or otherwise inadvertently injured.
“My mom mentioned that we should move him closer to the water to ensure his safety,” said Summer. “She tried to pick him up and screamed because of his suction cups – it was hilarious. I gave it a try, and he allowed me to pick him up.”
In fact, he was ultimately pretty chill about the whole situation, so it sounds like this was one cephalopod who came to the right beach. Summer elaborated, saying, “He didn’t fight me or bite. He was very mellow, although the sensation of his cups sticking to me was a bit strange.”
Naturally, it’s not likely Summer’s family will forget this particular beach trip anytime soon. “It was definitely an amazing experience,” she emphasized, “and something my family and I will remember for a lifetime.”
While this undoubtedly isn’t the first octopus to frequent Folly’s shores – ask a longtime local, and they’ll likely have a picture or video of their own octopus encounter to share – you certainly don’t hear about them with great frequency.
Perhaps this is because octopuses are more active at night than during the day. Or maybe it’s because the octopus has a reputation for being “shy,” as it spends much of its life in solitude. Either way, it’s a good day indeed when you happen upon one at Folly Beach and get to see it in its natural habitat (and, in Summer’s case, help it).
So in the spirit of Folly’s new eight-armed friend, here are a few fun facts about the octopus you probably didn’t know.
1. If you’re ever curious about what an octopus has been snacking on, just look around his lair. There, you’ll find a collection consisting of mollusk shells and the carapaces of crabs and other crustaceans the octopus uses to fortify their home. These collections are called “middens” or “gardens.”
2. Octopuses are considered the most intelligent of all the invertebrates and have the most complex brain out of any mollusk. Thanks to these big ol’ brains, they’ve developed a reputation as escape artists in captivity.
3. While octopuses don’t have teeth in the standard sense, they do have teeth – you just can’t see them. Inside their mouth is a hard retractable beak. Behind the beak is the radula, which is essentially a barbed tongue the octopus uses to pry an animal out of its shell. Finally, hidden in the animal’s mouth is a tooth-covered organ called the salivary papilla that is used to drill into stubborn shells.
4. The octopus also has modified salivary glands which produce – wait for it – venom (yes, venom!) to incapacitate their prey.
5. You know that large bulbous thing on top of their bodies? Well, technically, it’s not their head. That appendage is actually the mantle, a receptacle in which their organs are stored – think stomach, heart, kidney, gonad, etc. The octopus head is the small area around the eyes.
6. Those tentacles on each octopus arm aren’t just good for sticking to things. In fact, they are incredibly sensitive, with each sucker boasting up to 10,000 neurons. The octopus therefore uses their tentacles to learn about their surroundings.
7. When you see an octopus, it’s easy to imagine it has lived a storied life beneath the sea. Alas, ‘tis not so. Rather, octopuses don’t live very long – they typically only mate once, and then wither away soon after. The average octopus life span in the wild is only one or two years. If they’re really lucky, three … but rarely any longer than that.