Jul 5, 2010


Summary: Getting back in the swing of things after two dilatory weeks, we kick off today's WOW Word with a little help from a little friend ...

Today is officially my last day of my long holiday weekend. Unofficially, it should be over by now, but I'm lucky enough to have some houseguests who are still in town. And today, we're trekking to Shedd Aquarium.

My 5-year-old niece, Kora, has been kind enough to provide me with this week's word: octopus.

Last night, we were reading a book about shapes before bedtime. When we read the word octagon, Kora was careful to remind me that the pronunciation is octa- (with an A), not octo- (with the O)--unlike octopus. We've also been playing with some "cool toys" (her words), one of which is a sky blue, plastic octopus.

You probably already know that an octopus is a sea creature--specifically, a cephalopod (look that one up on your own!) mollusk with eight muscular 'arms' that are fully equipped with rows of suction-cup-like mechanisms, simply called suckers. The word comes from the Greek oktopous, meaning eight-footed, and was named in English in the year 1758. Broadly speaking, an octopus can be anything with eight arms or branches. Today's WOW (Word of the Week) lesson isn't just about the word octopus, mind you; in light of our sea-themed adventures today, it's also about the creature, itself.

Octopus Facts for Kids (condensed from Buzzle.com):
- An octopus doesn't have any vertebrae; in fact, it's completely boneless.
- An octopus has three hearts!
- Its life span will vary from six months to a couple of years; the larger-sized variations live longer.
- Some octopus species can be as large as 23 feet.
- It lives in holes in the sea floor (or wreckage on the sea floor) or in crevices of rocks.
- It's a night hunter that eats crabs, mollusks and crayfish.

For the grown-up readers, you may be interested in noting that octopuses (also pluralized as octopi) are being studied more and more frequently in laboratory settings and in captivity. According to a recent article in Discovery Brain Magazine, scientists have witnessed some intriguing behavior: Cameras captured untended octopus creatures leaving their tanks at night--some of them even lifting lids and picking locks--to dine on crabs and other 'food' in the labs that were dwelling in separate tanks. They may be some of the so-called smartest creatures with such short life spans.

© KiKi Productions, Inc. 2010 The included illustration comes from Merriam-Webster.com.

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