Octopuses love to fight over dirt and debris, University of Sydney study shows
We’ve just witnessed one of the dirtiest fights ever, with two iconic characters getting personal and willing to sink their limbs into the mud to take down their opponents in a scene we just couldn’t look away from. from
No, we’re not talking John Fetterman’s Victorious Senate Campaign for Mehmed Oz— we’re talking about octopuses that have been seen throwing objects at each other.
In a study published Nov. 9 magazine PLOS ONE:The authors videotaped octopuses that appeared to deliberately throw mud and shells at each other in front of the camera. In fact, this is the first time that throwing behavior has ever been observed in a creature.
That’s notable because there aren’t many animals outside of humans that are known to intentionally throw objects. In the study, researchers note that there are eight non-human animals, including chimpanzees, elephants and polar bears, that have been recorded throwing things at each other.
Researchers analyzed 24-hour footage of dusky octopuses in Jervis Bay, Australia, recorded by underwater cameras between 2015 and 2016. They found more than 100 instances of debris throwing in a group of 10 octopuses.
The study authors can’t say for sure why? the octopuses were throwing things at each other, but there are several clues that suggest this was aggressive behavior rather than playful. For example, octopuses changed their skin color to a darker shade associated with aggression when they threw harder and were more likely to hit their target.
Half of the throws also occurred when the octopuses were interacting with each other, such as mating or probing attempts. Almost 66 percent of the throws were made by female octopi, suggesting they’re annoyed by their mischievous male counterparts (which, look, we get it).
However, the researchers add that there simply isn’t enough evidence to show that this is fully aggressive behavior. For one, the target octopuses never fired back when objects were thrown at them. Also, none of the recorded hits caused a fight between the animals.
Regardless of why they threw things, it’s clear that throwing probably plays some sort of social role in the lives of octopuses. Knowing more about why they do this gives us a better understanding of octopus biology and behavior and potentially helps us protect their populations. If we know what makes them aggressive or standoffish, we can better fit them into environments and habitats that don’t make them want to throw a shell at the nearest creature.
And so octopuses join a pretty exclusive fight club of animals who like to throw things at each other, which is not surprising considering they have so many arms to sling.
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