‘Octlantis’: Bustling Octopus Community Discovered Off Australia

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By Jasmin Malik Chua

In the briny waters of Jervis Bay on Australia’s east coast, where three rocky outcrops jut out from piles of broken scallop shells, beer bottles and lead fishing lures, a clutch of octopuses gambol among a warren of nearly two dozen dens. Welcome to Octlantis.

The bustling community belies conventionally held notions of the cephalopods, once thought to be solitary and asocial.

Indeed, Octopus tetricus, known colloquially as the gloomy octopus, has always been framed as a bit of a loner, with males and females meeting only once a year to mate.

Even then, there’s barely any touching. To avoid being throttled and eaten by a hungry female, the male octopus uses a specialized arm to jettison packets of sperm called spermatophores into the giant bulb behind the female’s head, also known as the mantle.

In the site they have christened “Octlantis,” however, an international team of marine biologists, led by Alaska Pacific University’s David Scheel, observed “complex social interactions” among 10 to 15 octopuses on eight different days, as they foraged, mated and fought in close quarters.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. In neuron count, the octopus is not far behind the cat. This is pretty smart and given such prehensile limbs I suspect is on a rapid evolutionary trajectory, being able to better take advantage of any added smarts.

  2. It may also surprise some Aussi observers, that groups of octopus have also been reported washed up in news from “old South Wales” UK!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-west-wales-41790482

    A group of octopuses were seen walking along a Ceredigion beach on Friday night, surprising experienced sea-goers.

    Brett Stones, who runs dolphin tours in Cardigan Bay, saw as many as 25 curled octopuses on New Quay beach as he returned from a day at sea.

    “It was a bit like an end of days scenario,” he said.

    “There were probably about 20 or 25 on the beach. I have never seen them out of the water like that.”

    Numbers of curled octopuses, which measure about 20in (0.5m) in length, have increased off the coast of Wales a due to the decline in cod populations. They are also a common prey for dolphins.

    But it is very unusual for any to end up on land.

    Mr Stones, 39, who has spent most of his life at sea and runs tours for SeaMôr dolphin watching, said: “Maybe they are getting confused by the bright lights in New Quay harbour and maybe they are dying off after summer or getting knackered after the recent storms.

    “We have got lobster pots and sometimes octopus will strip the bait, but they are very sneaky.

    “It is really rare to see them.”

    Mr Stones said he helped collect those that were completely out of the water and returned them to the sea.

    Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, a number of the octopuses were found washed up on the beach on Saturday morning. (see link for photos)

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