An octopus is a soft-bodied, eight-limbed mollusc of the order Octopoda (, ok-TOP-ə-də). The order consists of some 300 species and is grouped within the class Cephalopoda with squids, cuttlefish, and nautiloids. Like other cephalopods, an octopus is bilaterally symmetric with two eyes and a beaked mouth at the center point of the eight limbs. The soft body can radically alter its shape, enabling octopuses to squeeze through small gaps. They trail their eight appendages behind them as they swim. The siphon is used both for respiration and for locomotion, by expelling a jet of water. Octopuses have a complex nervous system and excellent sight, and are among the most intelligent and behaviourally diverse of all invertebrates.
Octopuses inhabit various regions of the ocean, including coral reefs, pelagic waters, and the seabed; some live in the intertidal zone and others at abyssal depths. Most species grow quickly, mature early, and are short-lived. In most species, the male uses a specially adapted arm to deliver a bundle of sperm directly into the female's mantle cavity, after which he becomes senescent and dies, while the female deposits fertilised eggs in a den and cares for them until they hatch, after which she also dies. Strategies to defend themselves against predators include the expulsion of ink, the use of camouflage and threat displays, the ability to jet quickly through the water and hide, and even deceit. All octopuses are venomous, but only the blue-ringed octopuses are known to be deadly to humans.
Octopuses appear in mythology as sea monsters like the Kraken of Norway and the Akkorokamui of the Ainu, and probably the Gorgon of ancient Greece. A battle with an octopus appears in Victor Hugo's book Toilers of the Sea, inspiring other works such as Ian Fleming's Octopussy. Octopuses appear in Japanese erotic art, shunga. They are eaten and considered a delicacy by humans in many parts of the world, especially the Mediterranean and the Asian seas.
Octopuses live in every ocean, and different species have adapted to different marine habitats. As juveniles, common octopuses inhabit shallow tide pools. The Hawaiian day octopus (Octopus cyanea) lives on coral reefs; argonauts drift in pelagic waters. Abdopus aculeatus mostly lives in near-shore seagrass beds. Some species are adapted to the cold, ocean depths. The spoon-armed octopus (Bathypolypus arcticus) is found at depths of 1,000 m (3,300 ft), and Vulcanoctopus hydrothermalis lives near hydrothermal vents at 2,000 m (6,600 ft). The cirrate species are often free-swimming and live in deep-water habitats. Although several species are known to live at bathyal and abyssal depths, there is only a single indisputable record of an octopus in the hadal zone; a species of Grimpoteuthis (dumbo octopus) photographed at 6,957 m (22,825 ft). No species are known to live in fresh water.