The accidental capture of a rare octopus in chilly water off the coast at San Pedro makes a great opportunity for science- or beach-minded people to head down to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium at Cabrillo Beach.
The female cephalopod, known colloquially as a paper nautilus and scientifically as an argonaut, turned up in the nets of a fishing boat off the coast of San Pedro last weekend.
It’s on display at the Aquarium, in a warm tank that scientists hope will keep it alive for at least a couple more days.
To the surprise of scientists, the animal survived a whole day in the fishing boat’s bait tank. Staff on the fishing boat brought it to the aquarium when they came in off the water, and the octopus has been eating and apparently thriving in a warm tank there for several days.
The animal normally lives in tropical or subtropical zones, but it sometimes turns up along the Southern California coast in the autumn, carried by seasonal warm currents.
This one is a foot long and has been eating the shrimp and other food that the scientists at the aquarium have been providing.
It is not clear how long the animal will live, so people who want to see it should come right away, said Mike Schaadt, the aquarium’s director.
It appears to be doing well, he said, but there may be something about its health or a variable about being in captivity that could cause it to die quickly. Putting the octopus back in the ocean is not an option, Schaadt said, because the water is far too cold.
The discovery of the octopus has shined new attention on the modest San Pedro aquarium, which is sometimes outshined by the much larger Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.
The Cabrillo Beach location is in a building designed by architect Frank Gehry in in 1981. It features sea creatures from Southern California, and was a co-founder of the American Cetacean Society, the oldest whale conservation organization in the United States.
The museum is open from noon to 5 p.m. most weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. It is closed on Mondays.
This Sunday, the aquarium is holding its annual Autumn Sea Fair, a festival that will include a treasure hunt, face-painting and other activities.
The Sunday fair is free and open to the public, although parking is $1 per hour. The museum typically asks for a $5 donation for adults and $1 for children. It is located at 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro, CA 90731.