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How octopuses resolve arguments

Octopus of the species Octopus tetricus in their natural environment

Peter Godfrey-Smith / University of Sydney

For the first time, scientists have observed octopuses in their natural environment throwing shells, algae, and silt at each other. Peter Godfrey-Smith of the University of Sydney, Australia, and colleagues from Canada and the USA installed underwater cameras in Jervis Bay, Australia, to study interactions between octopuses of the species Octopus tetricus. The researchers analyzed more than 20 hours of footage and noticed that the cephalopods sometimes collected algae, shells, and silt with their tentacles and then launched them away. Sometimes they appeared to be simply removing debris or food scraps. But in some situations, they seemed to be deliberately attacking each other (PLOS ONE, November 9). Objects were projected with relatively more force when thrown at other octupuses, with the thrower’s body usually displaying a uniformly dark or medium color. The octopuses under attack often dodged but did not always evade the objects, especially when it was a spray of silt being launched.

GODFREY-SMITH, P. et al. PLOS ONE. Nov. 9, 2022Demonstration of how they throw objectsGODFREY-SMITH, P. et al. PLOS ONE. Nov. 9, 2022