Eating octopus is a Greek tradition. Take a look at my last name, and you can safely assume there were many days after Catholic school when I’d come home to the sticky stench of octopus stewing on our stove. Inhaling that thick odor, I’d throw open all the windows in our house, wondering (loudly) why we couldn’t “just eat normal American food?!” But it’s what we do—eat weird and smelly things. As a people, we fear nothing.
But we don’t make a practice of killing the very rarest of octopus specimens. We’re fearless, not heartless. Nonetheless, one family vacationing in Greece accidentally did just that.
Labros Hydras, a Washington, D.C. engineer, was, up until recently, enjoying his annual family holiday. Snorkeling off the beaches of Greece, where he’d grown up, Hydras did what he did every year—he caught an octopus from the ocean so he and his family could eat it.
And eat it they did. It was only later that they learned their lunch was in fact a very rare specimen—a six-armed octopus, known as a “hexapus,” and only the second one of its kind ever seen.
Hydras told The Telegraph, “It tasted just like a normal octopus, but now I feel really bad,” he said. “When we caught it, there was nothing to suggest it was any different or had been damaged. I thought it had just been born with six tentacles.”
The hexapus isn’t a new species—it’s a mutant. Its six limbs are the result of a prenatal abnormality. Discovered for the first time five years ago, the only other known hexapus, nicknamed “Henry,” was found off the coast of North Wales.
Hydras initially took his hexapus to a restaurant to have it cooked. But the chef refused, warning him that the animal was special and should be kept alive. Hydras ignored him, killing and cleaning it with the help of his kids, who took turns beating it against rocks—a traditional Greek way to tenderize the animal’s rubbery flesh. He then fried it up in a pan.
It was only later, when Hydras was on the phone with a biologist friend, that he learned what he’d done.
Repentant, he said, “Now I want to pursue the scientific angle to make scientists aware of the existence of the wild hexapus. It is the least that I can do given my ignorance and guilt that I feel for killing such a rare animal.”
The engineer is now trying to help marine experts in Greece by providing them with information about the exact location of his find on the Pelion peninsula.