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Would you trust World Cup's octopus oracle?

By Paul Armstrong, CNN
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Octopus death threats?
  • Octopus predicted that Spain would beat Germany in World Cup semifinal
  • "Paul" has correctly predicted the result of all six of Germany's games
  • He makes predictions by opening box of food bearing flag of winning country
  • Paul will predict the result of the World Cup final on Friday

(CNN) -- Paul the octopus, a psychic cephalopod at an aquarium in Germany, has become a World Cup phenomenon after correctly predicting the winners in all six of the German national team's matches.

Now staff at Sea Life in Oberhausen, western Germany are preparing for Paul's prediction for Sunday's final between The Netherlands and Spain -- Germany's conquerors.

Six winners in a row: what are the chances?

Leading online gambling service, Betfair, told CNN if someone bet £10 ($15) on the first match, carried over all funds to the second match, and then repeated this up until Germany's sixth match, their original bet would have netted them £4,071 ($6,092). They said the probability of this happening was 0.245 percent, or a 1 in 408 chance.

British high street bookmaker William Hill was so impressed by Paul's predictive powers that it has offered even odds that he will pick the winner of the final between Spain and The Netherlands.

Video: Paul the Octopus' trainer on threats
Video: Online reaction to octopus
Video: Octopus predicts World Cup

"Punters are keen to keep on the right side of Paul's tips, so we are giving them the chance to bet that he'll pick the winner before they even know which side he has opted for," William Hill's spokesman Graham Sharpe told CNN.

At least one punter was kicking himself for not paying attention to Paul. A man who staked a record €500,000 ($629,430) on Germany winning last night lost his wager -- the largest World Cup bet ever, according to William Hill.

How does Paul make his predictions?

Sea Life staff lower two boxes of food into his tank, one with a German flag and the other bearing that of their opponents. The case he opens first is adjudged to be his predicted winner.

Has he used this "psychic ability" before?

Yes, he was called on during the European football Championships in 2008 but only managed an 80 percent success rate in predicting Germany's results. He even failed to predict Germany's 1-0 defeat in the final against Spain -- a result that was repeated in South Africa two years later.

Have his predictions gone down well?

He's picking up on what everyone around him is thinking.
--Animal psychic Michelle Childerley
  • FIFA World Cup
  • Germany
  • Spain

According to media reports, the slippery soothsayer has received death threats from disgruntled Argentina fans angry at their team's comprehensive 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Germany.

Celebrity Spanish chef José Andrés even promised asylum to Paul if the Spanish beat Germany in their semi-final clash. "If Spain wins octopus is off of all my menus!" he declared.

Can an octopus really be psychic?

Michelle Childerley, who describes herself as an animal communications expert, told CNN that all animals -- as well as humans -- possess a psychic ability, with telepathy the main way of communicating among many species. She says dogs can often sense what an owner wants before they vocalize it.

As for as Paul's ability to predict a football result, Childerley claims the octopus is perfectly aware of what he is being asked. "He's picking up on what everyone around him is thinking," she said. "He knows there are two boxes which represent two sides, so he's basically tuned in to the more positive team at the moment he makes his choice."

CNN iReport: Watch Spain and German fans react to pychic octopus

Are they intelligent creatures?

They are extremely crafty creatures, according to octopus expert Kerry Perkins, of Sea Life in Brighton, southern England. "They've managed to adapt to their environment by having the ability to solve problems as they encounter them," she told CNN. "For example Paul the octopus has figured out that he can get a reward by lifting the lid on the box.

"In their real habitat this adaptability makes them feared predators. Because they usually live in specific dens on the seabed, they've had to develop ways of sneaking up on their quarry by camouflaging themselves or hunting at night."

She added that a lot of research is being done into behavior, in terms of whether octopus learn from decisions they make.

What type of octopus is Paul?

He's a common octopus, or Octopus Vulgaris. They are usually found in coastal areas across Europe and the Mediterranean, living for about two to three years. Larger species survive for up to five years, Perkins says.

CNN's Simon Hooper and Peter Wilkinson contributed to this report.

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