In a first-of-its-kind video, a group of wild octopuses are shown tossing sand and shells at one another.
The behaviour of the population was observed using underwater cameras by researchers in Jervis Bay, Australia, over a period of several days. Their findings were published in an article by the online journal PLOS One.
According to Peter Godfrey-Smith, the study’s principal investigator and a professor at the University of Sydney, “the throwing, propelling, or projecting of things is rare in the animal kingdom.” It is extremely rare and difficult to push an object underwater, even for a short distance.
The octopuses can be seen gathering debris like silt, shells, and algae in their arms and “throwing” it with their jet propulsion in the video. Godfrey-Smith observed that “most tosses do not hit any other octopus and are fairly plainly not intended to do so.” “However, some do seem to be targets.”
The gloomy octopus, also known as Octopus tetricus, is frequently observed in the subtropical waters of eastern Australia and New Zealand. According to Godfrey-Smith, their “world-weary look” in their eyes is what gave rise to their nickname.
The majority of octopuses are said to be somewhat antisocial. They go on solitary hunts, fight after encounters, and occasionally even consume one another. However, there are plenty of local food sources at Jervis Bay, and there aren’t many places nearby to find decent shelter. Because of this, octopus populations in this area are compelled to coexist closely.
They have to work hard in these confined spaces to identify their territory. They have been seen in the past towering over their rivals and darkening their skin tone to appear more scary.
Darker-colored octopuses in the latest study hurled harder and were more likely to strike other animals, indicating that these were intentional rather than unintentional displays of violence.
Godfrey-Smith remarked, “It is really difficult to know about the intents of an animal like this. “I believe the action may be a form of personal space assertion.”
It has been demonstrated in the past that octopuses employ this jet propulsion to clear their dens of trash and leftover food. However, the video reveals that when they were spotted tossing objects at other octopuses, their arms assumed a particularly peculiar stance, indicating that the actions were deliberate.
Targeted throwing is a rare animal action that is supposed to have played a key part in the development of humans. According to Godfrey-Smith, “it probably developed into a significant activity in the hunting of larger animals, [such as throwing spears].
A small number of social animals, such as chimpanzees, elephants, mongooses, and birds, have also been observed throwing at a target. This video offers the first proof that the socially awkward octopus might likewise partake in these specific social practises.