Photo credit: David Scheel/Current Biology
By Nell Greenfieldboyce
Some octopuses intimidate their neighbors by turning black, standing tall and looming over them threateningly, like an eight-armed Dracula.
That’s according to a study published Thursday that helps show that octopuses aren’t loners, contrary to what scientists long thought; some of the invertebrates have an exciting social life.
The study, in the journal Current Biology, focuses on one species, known as Octopus tetricus — the gloomy octopus — which gathers to munch on tasty scallops in the shallows of Jervis Bay, Australia.
“There can be over a dozen octopuses or more at this site,” says David Scheel of Alaska Pacific University. “Generally, during the Australian summer there are more and we see a lot of activity then.”
A local diver, Matthew Lawrence, first noticed there was a lot of octopus interaction going on there. His observations piqued the interest of Scheel, who is a marine biologist, and Peter Godfrey-Smith, a philosopher who had been thinking about octopus consciousness.
The research team eventually recorded 52 hours of underwater video, showing 186 octopus interactions.
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