What’s in A Name: National Zoo Asks You To Decide

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The new giant Pacific octopus at the National Zoo has been causing a stir since it arrived earlier this year.  Its growing popularity with Zoo visitors has keepers dubbing the cephalopod as the "giant panda of invertebrates."  The only problem is the two-and-a-half-year-old creature, who will grow from its current three pounds up to 70, still doesn't have a name of its own (which is important when you're a rising star in the invertebrate world).

So, the Smithsonian National Zoo is handing the honors over to the public via an online vote. Naming an octopus is tough, says the Zoo's invertebrate curator. Things you should know about this octopus' personality: It's "very active and not at all camera-shy." The keepers are almost certain it's a male, but whether it ends up being a he or a she, they can adjust the name accordingly.

Here are the choices:

  • Ceph: Octopuses (Octopi?) are known in the science world as Cephalopoda, greek for "head-foot," because their "feet," or arms, are on the front of their head.
  • Octavius: Alliteration is always fun for the tongue (Octavius the Octopus, anyone?). And the number eight: "Oct," the prefix meaning eight, is the number of arms octopuses have, and "Octavius" is a Latin name that, in ancient Rome, was given to a family's eighth child.  {C}
  • Olympus: Our friend arrived at the zoo just before the Winter 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. Also, many visitors could consider the animal the "champion" of invertebrates at the zoo, because of its impressive size and memory.
  • Vancouver: Before you go thinking this is another reference to the Olympics, it's actually a reference to the place this octopus first called home: It came to the zoo from another organization in Vancouver, Canada.

Voting will be open until April 7 at noon, and the winning name will be announced via the Zoo's Octocam at 2 p.m., followed by announcements on Facebook and Twitter. To vote, visit the polling page.

Personally, I'm pulling for Octavius—it would distinguished him among fellow octopi (octopuses?).

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