They say that different species, no matter how far apart on the evolutionary scale, have more in common than we probably think – and now that we know female octopuses get annoyed with the dudes in their lives, too, it’s easier than ever to believe.
According to a study published in PLOS ONE, octopuses deliberately throw debris like silt and shells, often directed at another octopus.
Back in 2015-2016, a team of Australian (and American) scientists set up underwater cameras to record the behavior of the gloomy octopus. Study author David Scheel spoke with PopSci about their findings.
“Our study arose from the concentration of octopuses at this site, which was unusual. Interactions among octopuses occur very often when there are many animals present, so this location presents the rare opportunity to study behaviors beyond just mating that octopuses bring to bear on interacting with their own kind.”
In a short 24 hours worth of footage, they captured 1o2 instances of octopuses throwing debris.
The projectiles were often tossed several body lengths away, and the process confirmed that the behavior is different from any other movements they need to move in the water.
“The throwing of objects that have been oriented by the thrower is a rare animal behavior. Doing this under water, even for a short distance, seems especially unusual and quite hard to do, making this an even more striking behavior.”
They also noted that 66% of the objects were thrown by female octopuses, and around half of those happened during interactions with their male counterparts (think arm probes or mating attempts).
The ladies only landed about 17% of their attempted assaults.
You probably know that octopuses change color, but did you know that darker colors are generally associated with aggression?
Now you do, so it kind of makes sense that the darker hued females threw more forcefully and had better aim, to boot.
The authors also note, however, that the intended victims were able to duck or raise at least a couple of arms, often deflecting the attack.
“To our knowledge, throwing by octopuses has not been reported before, so to find them throwing at other octopuses is new. Generally, octopuses are normally solitary animals. This appears to be one more way in which they try to manage interacting with each other.”
They maintain, of course, that there is no way to determine the true intention of the shell throwing, since the behavior appears complicated and has only been previously observed in a few species.
“Wild octopuses project various kinds of material through the water in jet-propelled ‘throws,’ and these throws sometimes hit other octopuses. There is some evidence that some of these throws that hit others are targeted, and play a social role.”
So, they may not know for sure, but they suspect.
Which honestly seems pretty fair.