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Octopus for sale at Borough Market

The octopus, from Greek Ὀκτώπους, 'eight-footed', with plural forms: octopuses, octopi, or octopodes, is a cephalopod of the order Octopoda that inhabits many diverse regions of the ocean, especially coral reefs. The term may also refer to only those creatures in the genus Octopus. In the larger sense, there are around 300 recognised octopus species, which is over one third of the total number of known cephalopod species.

Body structure

Octopuses are characterised by their eight arms (not tentacles), usually bearing suction cups. Unlike most other cephalopods, the majority of octopuses — those in the suborder most commonly known, Incirrina — have almost entirely soft bodies with no internal skeleton. They have neither a protective outer shell like the nautilus, nor any vestige of an internal shell or bones, like cuttlefish or squids. A beak, similar in shape to a parrot's beak, is the only hard part of their body. This enables them to squeeze through very narrow slits between underwater rocks, which is very helpful when they are fleeing from morays or other predatory fish. The octopuses in the less familiar Cirrina suborder have two fins and an internal shell, generally reducing their ability to squeeze into small spaces.

As food

Many species of octopus are eaten as food by human cultures around the world. The arms and sometimes other parts of the body are prepared in various ways, often depending on the species being eaten.

Care must be taken to boil the octopus properly, to rid it of slime and the smell, as well as any residual ink.

Octopus is a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine, including sushi, takoyaki, and Akashiyaki. Some small species are sometimes eaten alive as a novelty and health food (mostly in South Korea). Similarly, a live octopus may be sliced up and the legs eaten while still squirming, which they continue to do for some minutes.

Octopus are also eaten regularly in Hawaii, many of the popular dishes being Asian in origin..

Octopus is also a common food in Mediterranean cuisine. In Galicia, polbo á feira (fair style octopus) is a local delicacy.

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