Father and daughter adopt a unique pet on ‘Octopus: Making Contact'
As sea creatures go, the octopus is among the smartest, up there with whales, dolphins and sharks on the sea life intelligence scale.
But these odd-looking, tentacled beasts also have individual personalities and unique skill sets and are capable of recognizing faces and interacting with other individuals. An Alaska marine biology professor and his teenage daughter learned this when they adopted one as a pet, which is the subject of a PBS “Nature” documentary premiering this week.
In “Octopus: Making Contact,” premiering Wednesday, Oct. 2 (check local listings), we’re introduced to Heidi and her keepers, Dr. David Scheel of Alaska Pacific University and his daughter Laurel, who observed the cephalopod’s abilities to change color, solve puzzles, use tools and escape through small spaces as she occupied a tank in their living room.
And according to the Scheels, she was happy in captivity and bonding with her owners.
“One of the ways you know that an octopus is doing well,” Dr. Scheel explained to a recent gathering of journalists in Beverly Hills, Calif., “is by looking at their color patterns and their skin patterns and also how fast they grow. And Heidi grew rapidly and had what I consider very healthy, normal, flashy, responsive skin and color patterns. And so when an octopus is unhappy in its environment, they become very retiring, they don’t come out, they don’t interact, and in the worstcase scenario, they can lose condition, and we didn’t see that with Heidi. She looked very good.”
And Heidi was a social animal. Laurel says that when she would walk into the room, Heidi would perk up, not unlike a dog does when their owner enters.
Heidi also liked television, and specifically comedies, because, as Laurel says, “she would perk up and either move towards the side that the TV was on or other more attentive sort of behavior. But I think one of the reasons why she liked comedies more than other shows was that they have more color, and so there’s more for her to react to visuallywise.”
As for Heidi’s favorite, Laurel says, “‘Big Bang Theory,’ And, of course, it has all the colors at the beginning, and there’s lots of colors spattered all throughout all the episodes, so that was certainly one of the ones that had a big impact.”
“Octopus: Making Contact”