Octopuses aren’t the main food source for any predators, but they are still eaten. Predators include sperm whales, moray eels, sea otters, orcas, sharks, barracudas, and penguins. Octopuses are also known to eat each other.
Although octopuses are carnivores, there are many animals that hunt them. These animals are usually smaller than the largest octopuses, so they go for the smaller species.
This is why octopuses react to danger like prey animals. Their first instinct is to flee but they have other self-defense methods, such as ink squirting, camouflage, and squeezing through tight spaces.
This article covers the most common octopus predators and answers how and why they eat octopuses.
Here are 9 predators that eat octopuses:
- Sperm whale
- Moray eel
- Sea otter
1. Sperm Whale
Sperm whales are among the largest animals on Earth. They do not go out of their way to hunt octopuses, as they eat large quantities of animals in one feeding. Sperm whales only eat octopuses when they encounter them at lower depths.
|Scientific Name||Physeter macrocephalus|
|Habitat||Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans|
|Average Size||53 feet|
|Average Weight||90,389.5 pounds (male)|
Sperm whales hunt at depths of 2,000 feet, so they mostly find bigger cold-water octopuses. Although their main food source is squid and fish, they do occasionally eat octopuses.
These giant animals lack teeth, so they do not chew or catch their target by biting. Instead, they suck them inside their mouths. They usually swallow their prey whole.
Squids are the preferred food of sperm whales, and octopuses aren’t too dissimilar. Squids and octopuses are cephalopods and, as they are invertebrates, it’s easy for the sperm whale to swallow them.
2. Moray Eel
Moray eels are a family of carnivorous eels with about 200 species. The biggest one, the giant moray eel, can take down larger individual octopuses.
|Habitat||Oceans and brackish waters|
|Average Size||10 feet (giant moray eel)|
|Average Weight||66 pounds (giant moray eel)|
Moray eels are found in every ocean on Earth. They are ambush predators mostly feeding on snails, urchins, fish, and crustaceans.
They are also known to attack mollusks, including squids, cuttlefish, and octopuses. As they are long and slender, Moray eels can reach into crevices where octopuses hide.
Moray eels have extremely sharp teeth that penetrate the boneless bodies of octopuses easily. They also shake violently while struggling with prey. Big octopuses can attack back, grabbing, squeezing, and biting the eels.
3. Sea Otter
Sea otters might catch octopuses living in shallow waters. As octopuses in coastal habitats are generally smaller, sea otters can overpower them with ease.
|Scientific Name||Enhydra lutris|
|Habitat||Coastal waters, rocky coasts, barrier reefs|
|Average Size||4–5 feet (male)|
|Average Weight||49–99 pounds (male)|
Sea otters are social predators living in coastal areas of seas and oceans. They have strong jaws and consume over 100 species, which include worms, urchins, crabs, clams, and octopuses.
They mostly catch prey while surface swimming or foraging. As coastal octopuses are generally smaller, they can easily catch and overpower them.
These adept swimmers aren’t afraid to hunt for octopuses more than twice their size. They are known to attack giant octopuses, which they overpower with their body weight advantage and strong jaws. Sea otters generally prefer larger prey, as they need to consume 20% of their body weight in a day.
As apex predators, orcas prey on nearly every animal they encounter, which includes octopuses. As they are incomparably stronger than any octopus, the cephalopods stand no chance when orcas catch them.
|Scientific Name||Orcinus orca|
|Habitat||All oceans and seas, except northern and secluded seas (like the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea)|
|Average Size||16–23 feet (female)|
|Average Weight||6,614–8,819 pounds (female)|
Apart from their strength, orcas are fiercely intelligent. This helps them counter the similarly intelligent octopus’ tricks. Some orcas pair up to counteract the fact that octopuses are solitary and attack from two sides.
As they weigh 6,500–8,100 pounds more than the largest cephalopods, octopuses caught by orcas have no chance of survival. Orcas swim faster than octopuses as well (35 mph against 25 mph). The most effective octopus defense tactic against orcas is to hide in a narrow crevice.
Orcas are part of the family Delphinidae, which includes oceanic dolphins. Many dolphins of this family also include octopuses in their diets:
- Bottlenose dolphin
- Common dolphin
- Spotted dolphin
- Dusky dolphin
- Commerson’s dolphin
Sharks are among the top predators in the ocean, which means they eat nearly any animal, including octopuses. Shark species vary greatly in size, but all of them potentially eat octopuses.
|Habitat||Every ocean and sea, down to 12,100 feet|
|Average Size||6.7 inches–40 feet|
|Average Weight||2–20,000 pounds|
Sharks are classified under the superorder Selachimorpha, which counts over 500 species. An overwhelming majority of them are exclusive carnivores, with some outlier species being omnivores.
Sharks vary greatly in size. The smallest dwarf lanternshark is about 6.7 inches long. Octopuses vary in size as well, as the smallest octopus wolfi is less than an inch. This makes all shark species potential predators for octopuses.
Sharks’ strong bites and up to 15 rows of teeth rip octopuses apart easily. Although they are capable of eating octopuses, sharks often opt for other prey instead, like fish. One shark species that prefers octopuses is the blue shark.
The predatory relationship between sharks and octopuses goes both ways. Giant Pacific octopuses are known to eat smaller sharks.
The highly aggressive barracudas are known to eat octopuses from time to time. They prefer to eat smaller fish, like groupers and snappers, but the biggest ones attack larger octopus species as well.
|Habitat||Near shores in subtropical and tropical waters|
|Average Size||4–6 feet|
|Average Weight||53 pounds (great barracuda)|
Barracudas are known for their extreme aggression. They attack anything that they can eat, which includes fish, crustaceans, and shrimps. They sometimes attack cephalopods, which include octopuses.
Barracudas are slender fish with long and narrow mouths. As large octopuses are bigger than them, barracudas may prioritize attacking and eating their arms instead of their mantle.
Although barracudas are specifically mentioned in this list, any large carnivorous fish might eat octopus. Here are other large fish that eat octopuses:
Penguins feed on smaller krill and squid to larger fish and octopuses. Even the biggest emperor penguins prefer smaller prey due to their small beaks.
|Habitat||Arctic, southern and western South American, southern African, southern Australian, and New Zealand coasts|
|Average Size||3.6–4.2 feet (emperor penguin)|
|Average Weight||51 pounds (emperor penguin)|
Penguins do not prefer octopuses, but they will eat them, provided they are small enough to swallow. All species attack smaller marine animals, like fish and krill.
When it comes to cephalopods, penguins tend to prefer squids over octopuses, but do catch bite-sized octopuses from time to time. As octopuses prefer the seabed, penguins rarely encounter them because they rarely go below 60 feet.
Penguins eat octopuses, but they are also a representation of other ocean-going seabirds in this list. The following seabirds include octopus in their diet:
Octopuses are highly prone to eat their own. As they lead a solitary lifestyle and only mate once, there is no natural block in them preventing cannibalism.
|Average Size||4.3 feet (common octopus)|
|Average Weight||22 pounds (common octopus)|
It is theorized that senescence, the death of octopuses after mating, is an evolutionary way to prevent mothers from eating their children.
Octopuses are solitary animals. They only seek out each other when they want to mate. If octopuses encounter each other when they don’t want to mate or they are of the same gender, it’s possible they perceive the other as food.
Small octopuses are especially susceptible to being preyed upon by bigger octopuses. Octopuses in the larval stage also tend to eat each other.
Octopuses are eaten by sperm whales, moray eels, sea otters, orcas, sharks, barracudas, and penguins. They are also cannibals, meaning they won’t refrain from eating one another.
Although they are carnivores, octopuses behave like prey animals when chased. Their first instinct is to flee. Octopuses only attack back if they are backed into a corner.
Do Humans Eat Octopuses?
Yes, humans eat octopuses. It is considered a delicacy, but some cultures’ cuisine frequently includes them in regular dishes. South Korea, Japan, Spain, Italy, and Greece all include octopuses in their cuisine.
How Do Octopuses Defend Themselves?
Octopuses have a wide array of defensive tools. Their main instinct is to flee, which they do at 25 mph. Other tools include camouflage, ink squirting, and fitting into small crevices. Octopuses are also venomous, but they only bite back as a last resort.
Do Octopuses Hunt Humans?
No, octopuses do not hunt humans. Octopuses never attack creatures bigger than them. In fact, when octopuses do not flee from humans, they are highly curious. They are able to communicate through gestures and pulling.