Paul, an aquarium octopus, which correctly predicted the results of eight World Cup football matches in succession this summer, has died, the Sealife Oberhausen visitor attraction in Germany said.
Spain, in particular, hailed Paul as a national treasure after the mollusc twice picked the Spaniards as winners, first against Germany then over the Dutch in the final.
The octopus died in his pool in the night between Monday and Tuesday. The aquarium said there no suspicious circumstances concerning the death — although no one was expecting it.
“We all grew very fond of him and we will grievously miss him,” said Sealife chief executive Stefan Porwoll.
Paul, nearly three years old at the time of his death, was actually born in Britain — although this was of no help to the hapless English side during the football tournament. Scotland and Wales did not even qualify.
Aquarium staff employed Paul as an oracle by giving him a choice of two plastic buckets, each marked with a national flag, and seeing which one he reached into first for his favourite food, shellfish.
Some of the losing nations at the football fest in South Africa blamed Paul for their defeat and wanted to turn him into calamari rings. Others offered high sums to buy the aquarium star, but the Sealife chain said he was too old to go.
Meanwhile, in such esteem was Paul held in Spain, a town wants to preserve Paul’s body in a yet-to-be-built aquarium and octopus museum.
The north-western town of Carballino adopted Paul as its honorary citizen in July, a measure, which helped to nearly double the number of visitors to its annual octopus festival to about 100,000.
Mayor Carlos Montes said he had now contacted the German aquarium again in an attempt to acquire Paul’s remains.
However, Paul is to be cremated, and the urn containing his ashes will form the centre of a shrine surrounded by film clips of his tentacles successfully predicting match results by pointing to the flag of the winning country.
The Sealife aquarium is already raising a “Paul II”, in time to predict the 2012 European football championship.