Paul the Octopus
|Paul the Octopus|
Paul in his tank, next to a football boot with the German flag colours
|Other appellation(s)||Paul Oktopus, Paul der Krake|
|Known for||Predicting results of Germany's football matches|
|Owner||Sea Life Centres (aquarium keeper: Oliver Walenciak)|
|Named after||A poem by Boy Lornsen, Der Tintenfisch Paul Oktopus|
Paul the Octopus (hatched in 2008, died October 2010) was a common octopus living in a tank at a Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany, who was used as an animal oracle to predict the results of football matches, usually international matches in which Germany was playing. He came to worldwide attention with his accurate predictions in the 2010 World Cup.
During a divination, Paul was presented with two boxes containing food, each marked with the flag of a national football team in an upcoming match. He chose the box with the flag of the winning team in several of Germany's six Euro 2008 matches, and all seven of their matches in the 2010 World Cup—with Germany's third place playoff win over Uruguay on 10 July. His success rate rose to 85 percent, with 11 out of 13 matches correctly predicted. He predicted a win for Spain against the Netherlands in the World Cup final on 11 July by eating the mussel in the box with the Spanish flag on it.
Paul was hatched from an egg at the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth, England, then moved to a tank at one of the chain's centres in Oberhausen, Germany. His name derives from the title of a poem by the German children's writer Boy Lornsen: Der Tintenfisch Paul Oktopus.
According to Sea Life's entertainment director, Daniel Fey, Paul demonstrated intelligence early in life:
There was something about the way he looked at our visitors when they came close to the tank. It was so unusual, so we tried to find out what his special talents were.
The animal rights organisation PETA commented that octopuses are some of the most intelligent of invertebrates, with complex thought processes, long, and short-term memories, and different personalities. They can use tools, learn through observation, and are particularly sensitive to pain, according to the group. They say it would be cruel to keep Paul in permanent confinement. Sea Life Centres responded that it would be dangerous to release him, because he was born in captivity, and is not accustomed to finding food for himself.
According to DPA, local businessmen in Carballiño, a community in Galicia (Spain) collected about 30.000 Euro "Transfer fee" to get Paul as main attraction of the local Fiesta del Pulpo festival. Manuel Pazo, a fisher and head of the local business club assured that Paul would be presented alive in a tank and not on the menu. Sealife rejected the offer nevertheless.
Paul's career as an oracle began during the UEFA Euro 2008 tournament. In the lead-up to Germany's international football matches, Paul is presented with two clear plastic boxes, each containing food: a mussel or an oyster. Each container is marked with the flag of a team, one the flag of Germany, and the other the flag of Germany's opponent. The box which Paul opens first (and eats the contents of) is judged to be the predicted winner of the game.
Professor Chris Budd, of the University of Bath, and Professor David Spiegelharter, of Cambridge University, both compare Paul's apparent success to a run of luck when tossing a coin. Under the hypothesis that Paul is equally likely to choose the winner or the loser of a match, and neglecting the possibility of a draw, he has a 1/2 chance of predicting a single result and a 1/64 chance of predicting six in a row. This feat would be unlikely, but not nearly as unlikely as winning the UK lottery, a chance of 1/14 million. Spiegelharter points out that there are "other animals that have attempted but failed to predict the outcome of football matches"; it is not remarkable that one animal is more successful than the others, and only the successful animals will gain public attention after the fact.
Other experts propose that chance alone is not the only possible explanation for Paul's choices. He could be choosing boxes systematically—if not on the basis of football expertise, then perhaps on his evaluation of the countries' flags. The species Octopus vulgaris is almost certainly color blind; neither behavioral studies nor electroretinogram experiments show any discrimination of a colour's hue. Nonetheless, individuals can distinguish brightness as well as an object's size, shape, and orientation. Shelagh Malham of Bangor University states that they are drawn to horizontal shapes, and indeed, there are horizontal stripes on the flags he has chosen. The flag of Germany, a bold tricolour consisting of three equal horizontal bands of black, red and gold, is Paul's usual favorite. But the flag of Spain, with its broad yellow stripe, and the flag of Serbia, with its contrast of blue and white, are more vivid still, possibly explaining why Paul picked those countries over Germany. Fey suggested that Paul was confused by the similarities between the German and Spanish flags; this was on July 6, when Fey expressed hope that Paul's latest pick would be wrong.
Matthew Fuller, the senior aquarist at the Weymouth park where Paul was born, judged the flag-shape theory to be plausible: "[Octoposes] are the most intelligent of all the invertebrates and studies have shown they are able to distinguish shapes and patterns so maybe he’s able to recognise flags." Vyacheslav Bisikov, a Russian biologist, agrees that it is possible for an octopus to become attracted to a striped flag. Drosos Koutsoubos, a marine biologist at the University of the Aegean, is more cautious: "Well, I'm not a specialist in the behavior of octopuses and I can't give you with certainty an answer to this particular question. At least to my knowledge, it's rather a matter of random selection rather than any other selection."
Octopus vulgaris is also equipped with sensitive chemoreceptors on its tentacles, which are used to taste food and "smell" the water. Biologist Volker Miske, of the University of Greifswald, suggests that minor chemical differences on the surface of each box might account for Paul's decisions. Bisikov states that Paul could be "easily trained" to choose the right box by smell. According to Paul's keepers, there are holes in the jars to help him choose.
In UEFA Euro 2008, Paul correctly predicted the outcome of 4 out of 6 of Germany's matches. He failed to predict their defeats by Croatia in the group stage, and by Spain in the championship's final.[nb 1]
2010 FIFA World Cup 
Paul's accurate choices for the 2010 World Cup, broadcast live by German news channel NTV, endowed him with celebrity status. Paul predicted the winners of each of the seven 2010 FIFA World Cup matches that the German team played, against Australia, Serbia, Ghana, England, Argentina, Spain, and Uruguay. His prediction that Argentina would lose prompted Argentine chef Nicolas Bedorrou to post an Octopus recipe on Facebook.
There are always people who want to eat our octopus but he is not shy and we are here to protect him as well. He will survive.—Oliver Walenciak (Paul's keeper)
Paul correctly predicted the outcome of the semi-final, by choosing the food in the box marked with the Spanish flag. German supporters drew hope from his incorrect choice for the Germany versus Spain match in the UEFA Euro 2008 but were disappointed. The prediction led to death threats as German fans called for Paul to be cooked and eaten. In response, Spanish prime minister Jose Zapatero jokingly offered to send Paul official state protection, and the Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian called for Paul to be given safe haven in Spain.
Results involving Germany 
|Poland||Euro 2008||group stage||8 June 2008||Germany||2–0||Correct|
|Croatia||Euro 2008||group stage||12 June 2008||Germany||1–2||Incorrect|
|Austria||Euro 2008||group stage||16 June 2008||Germany||1–0||Correct|
|Portugal||Euro 2008||quarter-finals||19 June 2008||Germany||3–2||Correct|
|Turkey||Euro 2008||semi-finals||25 June 2008||Germany||3–2||Correct|
|Spain||Euro 2008||final||29 June 2008||Germany||0–1||Incorrect|
|Australia||World Cup 2010||group stage||13 June 2010||Germany||4–0||Correct|
|Serbia||World Cup 2010||group stage||18 June 2010||Serbia||0–1||Correct|
|Ghana||World Cup 2010||group stage||23 June 2010||Germany||1–0||Correct|
|England||World Cup 2010||round of 16||27 June 2010||Germany||4–1||Correct|
|Argentina||World Cup 2010||quarter-finals||3 July 2010||Germany||4–0||Correct|
|Spain||World Cup 2010||semi-finals||7 July 2010||Spain||0–1||Correct|
|Uruguay||World Cup 2010||3rd place play-off||10 July 2010||Germany||3–2||Correct|
Results not involving Germany 
|Wikinews has related news: 'Psychic' octopus backs Spain to win World Cup|
|Netherlands vs. Spain||World Cup 2010||final||11 July 2010||Spain||0–1||Correct|
Similar oracles 
Some other German oracles did not fare so well in the World Cup. The animals at the Chemnitz Zoo were wrong on all of Germany's group-stage games, with Leon the porcupine picking Australia, Petty the pygmy hippopotamus spurning Serbia's apple-topped pile of hay, and Anton the tamarin eating a raisin representing Ghana.
Mani the Parakeet of Singapore became famous for correctly predicting the results of all four quarter-final matches. Mani contradicted Paul by picking the Netherlands to win the final, resulting in some media outlets describing the game as an octopus-versus-parakeet showdown.
- Some later sources reported his success rate at 80%.
- Christenson, Marcus. "Psychic octopus Paul predicts Spain to beat Holland in World Cup final", The Guardian, 9 July 2010.
- "World Cup 2010: 10 things you didn't know about Paul the psychic octopus", The Telegraph, 7 July 2010, retrieved 7 July 2010
- Published in Das alte Schwein lebt immer noch: Boy Lornsens Tierleben, Schneekluth (1985), ISBN 978-3795109417. Re-published in and eponymous of the anthology Der Tintenfisch Paul Oktopus. Gedichte für neugierige Kinder, 2009, Manfred Boje Verlag ISBN 9783414821485
- Silver, Dan (8 July 2010), Top 10 things you need to know about World Cup star Paul the Psychic Octopus, mirrorfootball.co.uk, retrieved 9 July 2010
- Ruf, Cory (8 July 2010), PETA demands Paul, the World Cup-predicting octopus, be set free, news.nationalpost.com, retrieved 9 July 2010
- bieten 30.000 Euro Ablösesumme für "Pulpo Paul" FTD 10.07.2010
- Kraken-Orakel vs. Propheten-Papagei FR online nach einer DPA Meldung, 8.7.2010
- "Paul the World Cup octopus dies in his tank in Germany". BBC. October 26, 2010. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
- "Paul the octopus is dead – but conspiracy theories are thriving". The Guardian. October 26, 2010. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
- "Paul the octopus chooses Spain over Germany". IOL. 6 July 2010. Retrieved 8 July 2010.
- Erskine, Carole (25 June 2010), "Psychic Octopus to Predict England Result", Sky News, retrieved 9 July 2010
- Shenker, Sarah (9 July 2010), What are the chances Paul the octopus is right?, BBC News, retrieved 9 July 2010
- Connolly, Paul (9 July 2010), "Paul picks Spain! The 'oracle octopus' makes his prediction for the World Cup final... will he be right for the eighth time?", Daily Mail (UK), retrieved 9 July 2010
- Lydia M. Mäthger, Alexandra Barbosa, Simon Miner, Roger T. Hanlon (2006), "Color blindness and contrast perception in cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) determined by a visual sensorimotor assay", Vision Research 46: 1746–1753, doi:10.1016/j.visres.2005.09.035
- Grieshaber, Kirsten (6 July 2010), "Tentacle trauma: Paul the octopus says Spain will sink Germany at World Cup", Associated Press Newswires, Factiva APRS000020100706e676001l9
- "Weymouth's psychic octopus Paul is no sucker", Dorset Echo, 9 July 2010, Factiva NQTCE00020100709e6790002t, retrieved 10 July 2010
- "German octopus predicts Spanish victory in World Cup", RIA Novosti, 9 July 2010, Factiva RVESEN0020100709e679001e2, retrieved 10 July 2010
- Farivar, Cyrus (9 July 2010), "Octopuses have a well-developed brain, are attracted to colors and are 'delicious'", in Martin Kuebler, Deutsche Welle, retrieved 10 July 2010
- "Darum hat sich Krake Paul für Spanien entschieden", Die Welt (in German), 8 July 2010, retrieved 9 July 2010
- "ABs win? Paul may not have a leg to stand on", Bay of Plenty Times, 10 July 2010, Factiva APNBPT0020100710e67a0000j, "Octopuses test things for taste with the suckers on their tentacles. Paul's aquarium minders have confided that his choice of mussels from jars decorated with national flags was helped by holes in the jars."
- "Wie endet die Partie Deutschland - Kroatien?: Tier-Orakel sind sich uneins", Der Westen, 11 June 2008, retrieved 9 July 2010
- Armstrong, Paul (9 July 2010), Would you trust World Cup's octopus oracle?, CNN, retrieved 9 July 2010
- Shenker, Sarah (9 July 2010), What are the chances Paul the octopus is right?, news.bbc.co.uk, retrieved 9 July 2010
- Hyde, Thomas (7 July 2010), "Germany v Spain: Psychic octopus Paul unfazed by death threats, says keeper", The Daily Telegraph (UK), retrieved 9 July 2010
- Octopus Paul predicts Spain over Germany in WCup, 6 Jul. 2010 03:50
- Breitenbach, Dagmar (8 July 2010), "Fry Paul the oracle octopus, German fans say", Deutsche Welle, retrieved 9 July 2010
- AbramsDavid (8 July 2010), Germans Eat Paul The Octopus, allvoices.com
- Spanish PM Jose Zapatero offers Paul the psychic octopus state protection, Herald Sun, 8 July 2010, retrieved 9 July 2010
- Paul the psychic octopus predicts Spain will beat Holland - The Daily Telegraph, 9 July 2010
- World Cup Octopus: Paul's Predictions Stun Germany, Huffington Post, 24 Jun. 2010 03:50
- 'Psychic' octopus predicts Germany victory over England, BBC News, 25 June 2010
- Paul The Octopus Predicts Spain Will Beat Germany, The Globe and Mail, 7 July 2010
- "Psychic octopus Paul predicts Spain to beat Holland in World Cup final", The Guardian (London), 9 July 2010
- "World Cup Forecasts: Paul the Octopus Predicts a German Advance", Spiegel Online International, 23 June 2010, Factiva SPION00020100623e66n0002z, retrieved 10 July 2010
- Associated Press (25 June 2010), Binational octopus Paul predicts German win over England in next WCup game, Factiva APRS000020100625e66p001d2, retrieved 10 July 2010
- "World Cup Final a Battle of Octopus vs. Parakeet". CBS News. 9 July 2010.
- "WORLD CUP 2010: Paul the Psychic Octopus has competition as Mani the parakeet pecks Holland as his winners". Daily Mail. 9 July 2010.
- "Octopus Paul vs Mani the parakeet: Who will triumph?". Yahoo! Singapore. 10 July 2010.
Further reading 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Paul the Octopus|
- "German fans want revenge grilling of oracle octopus". The Washington Post (Berlin). Retrieved 10 July 2010.
- "Paul's picking Spain". The Daily Gleaner (Berlin: dailygleaner.com). July 10th, 2010. p. B4. Retrieved 10 July 2010.