Ursula only takes seconds to solve complex challenges. What's more amazing is that she's actually a two- year old octopus with an extraordinary knack for solving puzzles.

Studies have shown that the common octopus is able to distinguish the size, brightness shape and orientation of objects but Ursula is so intelligent that she can easily solves challenges set for her by her keepers at Living Coasts zoo and aquarium in Torquay, Devon.

It does not take long for her to unfasten catches, unscrew lids and dismantle Lego building. She's so good that she already beats humans at some tasks. The clever mollusk once took only about 10 seconds to open a camera's waterproof case, which proved faster than the zoo staff.

Ursula is given lots of objects to physically and mentally stimulate her and it appears she needs better challenges since her keepers already appeal for people to come up with new and better puzzles.

"We give her a lot of what we call environmental enrichment - it's what zoos do to stimulate animals mentally and physically. It's like giving toys to pets, but with a more scientific basis," said the aquarium's operations manager Clare Rugg.

Rugg said that those who can come up with the idea that challenges Ursula the most will have a chance to meet the clever invertebrate and her keepers.

For those up with the challenge, the puzzle they should prepare for the problem-solving octopus should be non-toxic and must not have any pointed or sharp objects. They should not include any metal because this is harmful to the octopus.

"Bigger, better, more complicated, more complex plastic tube networks, perhaps where she has to open the ends to get in. Or segments she has to pass through to go further into the tube," hinted Living Coasts keeper Sarah Tingvoll for those who want to come up with challenging puzzles for Ursula.

"Also, balls and floats, perhaps where food can be hidden inside - we feed her live crabs, sometimes dead prawns and muscles."

The Octopus is the only invertebrate protected by UK laws governing animals that are used for experiments and other scientific purposes.

At two years old, Ursula is fully mature and with the octopus having a natural life span of only a few year, it is likely that she will die of old age come winter.

Photo: Brian Gratwicke | Flickr

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