An octopus is a cephalopod mollusc of the order Octopoda. It has two eyes and four pairs of arms and, like other cephalopods, it is bilaterally symmetric. An octopus has a beak, with its mouth at the center point of the arms. An octopus has no internal or external skeleton (although some species have a vestigial remnant of a shell inside their mantles), allowing it to squeeze through tight places. Octopuses are among the most intelligent and behaviorally diverse of all invertebrates.

Octopuses inhabit diverse regions of the ocean, including coral reefs, pelagic waters, and the ocean floor. They have numerous strategies for defending themselves against predators, including the expulsion of ink, the use of camouflage and deimatic displays, their ability to jet quickly through the water, and their ability to hide. An octopus trails its eight arms behind it as it swims. All octopuses are venomous, but only one group, the blue-ringed octopus, is known to be deadly to humans while other generally harmless. Around 300 species are recognized, which is over one-third of the total number of known cephalopod species. The term 'octopus' may also be used to refer specifically to the genus Octopus.

The common octopus would be unique for its appearance alone, with its massive bulbous head, large eyes, and eight distinctive arms. But by far the most striking characteristic of the octopus is the wide array of techniques it uses to avoid or thwart attackers. Its first—and most amazing—line of defense is its ability to hide in plain sight. Using a network of pigment cells and specialized muscles in its skin, the common octopus can almost instantaneously match the colors, patterns, and even textures of its surroundings. Predators such as sharks, eels, and dolphins swim by without even noticing it.

When discovered, an octopus will release a cloud of black ink to obscure its attacker's view, giving it time to swim away. The ink even contains a substance that dulls a predator's sense of smell, making the fleeing octopus harder to track. Fast swimmers, they can jet forward by expelling water through their mantles. And their soft bodies can squeeze into impossibly small cracks and crevices where predators can't follow. If all else fails, an octopus can lose an arm to escape a predator's grasp and regrow it later with no permanent damage. They also have beaklike jaws that can deliver a nasty bite, and venomous saliva, used mainly for subduing prey.

Considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates, the common octopus is found in the tropical and temperate waters of the world’s oceans. They can grow to about 4.3 feet (1.3 meters) in length and weigh up to 22 pounds (10 kilograms), although averages are much smaller. They prey on crabs, crayfish, and mollusks, and will sometimes use their ink to disorient their victims before attacking.

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