Octopuses were believed to be solitary sea creatures since sightings of them on separate occasions rarely show them with other cephalopods. However, an interesting discovery in Australia's Jervis Bay shows that these eight-limbed creatures can also be quite sociable.
A group of scientists from Sydney, New York and Alaska used a GoPro to record 52 hours of footage of octopuses interacting in a rare social setting.
Study co-author Matthew Lawrence first observed the unusual gathering during one of his dives. He then decided to post his discovery on a cephalophod enthusiast website, which is how Professor David Scheel from the Alaska Pacific University and Peter Godfrey-Smith from the University of Sydney and University of New York found out about it.
Binge watching more than 50 octopuses is not exactly easy even with the help of students, especially since these cephalopods have mimicking abilities.
"It's harder than it sounds. Trying to keep track of who's who is very difficult. They can change color or shape in a second, and when one moves into view it is hard to tell whether they are a new animal – or one that you've been watching for ages," Godfrey-Smith said.
Of course, most have seen how an octopus behave in science channels on television, but to actually observe those behaviors in action and in response to another of its kind is very interesting. Scientists already observed how octopuses tend to change its color depending on how threatened or relaxed it feels and how it fights off predators, but to witness two octopuses "bickering" or being aggressive towards another – trying to make themselves look bigger and darker – is new.
Take a look at a video of Octopus fights below.
Scientists are not exactly sure whether it is a natural, but rarely seen living situation for octopuses. Perhaps those that have gathered in the middle of Jervis Bay are just tolerating each other since there are a lot of scallops to go around.
"There's a lot of pushing other animals around, kicking them out of the site, and sometimes vigorous fights," he added. It seems watching an octopus society is a lot like watching an MTV reality show.
The study titled "Signal Use by Octopuses in Agonistic Interactions" was published in Current Biology on Thusday.