Picture-Taking Octopus

Find out how an octopus learned to snap photographs in a New Zealand aquarium.

Find out how an octopus learned to snap photographs.

Here's an animal that’s really making a splash. Rambo the octopus recently learned to take photographs using a waterproof digital camera mounted to the side of her tank at Kelly Tarlton's SEA LIFE Aquarium in Auckland, New Zealand.

Animal behaviorist Mark Vette and his team used a buzzer to train Rambo to take pictures. First the team allowed the octopus to eat yummy snacks such as mussels, crabs, and fish every time they sounded the buzzer. Within three days, Rambo associated hearing a buzzing noise with receiving a treat.

Then Vette’s team placed the camera in Rambo's tank. Once this device was installed, they no longer let Rambo have a treat right after they set off the buzzer. Instead, the team taught the octopus that she had to click the shutter on the camera before getting the goodie. Now whenever she wants a delicious snack Rambo snaps the camera, often capturing pictures of visitors outside her tank.

Training the octopus to be a photographer took about eight weeks. According to Vette, the hardest part was building the case that held the camera inside the tank. It had to be tough enough to withstand regular examinations by the curious and strong creature. The trainers went through a dozen different versions, and Rambo destroyed two cameras in the process.

Luckily the team developed an octopus-proof case that protects the marine creature's camera. And Rambo continues to enjoy snapping pics. Sounds like this critter and her camera really clicked.

Text from "Is This Picture-Taking Octopus as Smart as She Seems?" by Jane J. Lee, NGS Staff

Adapted by Rose Davidson, NGS Staff