Two weeks and 7,050 votes after the Smithsonian’s National Zoo opened the online polls to the public to name its new giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini), one choice has emerged as the clear victor: Octavius. “Octavius the Octopus” is more than just a pretty, alliterative name. The prefix “oct” means eight—that is how many arms an octopus has, and “Octavius” was the Latin name traditionally given to the eighth child in ancient Rome. When the polls closed at noon today, Octavius had won 4,006 votes, or 57 percent of all votes. Olympus and Ceph battled for second place, winning 1,259 and 1,199 votes, respectively, while Vancouver trailed far behind, ultimately bringing in 586 votes. The Zoo announced the winning name on the octopus cam at 2 p.m., as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
The original names came from staff members and volunteers at the Zoo’s Invertebrate Exhibit. The gender posed one challenge in naming the cephalopod—although most staff members believe Octavius is a male, at a mere 2 ½ years of age, it will take more time for the octopus to mature before the Zoo can confirm this.
Giant Pacific octopuses emerge from eggs only a little larger than a grain of rice, but as adults can weigh hundreds of pounds in the wild, with an arm span of up to 25 feet. This octopus, who arrived at the end of January, will grow to be more than 13 times its current size over the next year. Octopuses are mollusks—related to squid, cuttlefish and nautiluses—and can change their color and texture instantly with a signal from their brains.
Scientists have also discovered that octopuses are natural explorers. Octavius will help the Zoo learn about such behavior when staff and Friends of the National Zoo volunteers introduce enrichment objects and observe whether the octopus becomes more active as a result.