Female octopuses throw armfuls of silt at sex pest males

I see a distinct overlap between the behaviour of octopuses and the interactions of female and male humans! Yes, this is not about cats, but I hope that you don’t mind as I find it interesting. It is indirectly about cats because it’s about animals and there is need for humankind to understand animals better and thereby respect them which should lead to less abuse. There is a great need to reduce animal abuse.

Octopus vulgaris
Octopus vulgaris. Image: Pixabay.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Australian research

Researchers in Jervis Bay, in Australia, have been observing octopus’ behaviour and they found that when female octopuses feel that they are harassed by ‘sex pest males’ they might throw objects at them such as armfuls of silt to tell them to go away (you might use stronger language).

They throw silt and other objects at males by using their tentacles to gather up the material which is then dropped and simultaneously a jet of water is emitted from a siphon just below its eye which blasts the material at the long-suffering male.

The scientists were unsure whether the females were deliberately throwing things at males, but they seem to have agreed that were. They observed one female shooting armfuls of silt at a male who was trying to mate with her. She hit him five times and as she targeted him for another strike he ducked ?! The ‘victims’ might also pause and change direction.

Prof Peter Godfrey-Smith, of the University of Sydney, who I believe is the lead researcher and author of the study and who also wrote the book Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea and the Deep Origins of Consciousness, said: “We were surprised to see the behaviour, and have spent a long time trying to work it out. The debris is not a weapon in any normal sense, and I doubt that a throw could do any real harm to another octopus, even when shells are thrown. But some of them appear to be targeted and do hit other octopuses.”

There is a hint that this behaviour is about to commence when octopuses have to move their siphons into an unusual position to jet the object at the male.

They also change the colour of their skin at this time with darker coloured tones normally being linked with aggression.

The researchers found that individuals with darker tones throw more forcefully and were also more likely to hit another octopus.

I mentioned females throwing objects at males and that appears to be the case 9 out of 10 times. On half the occasions that object throwing occurred it was when two or more octopuses were interacting including when attempts to mate were occurring.

They videoed 102 throwing actions. On two occasions they hit a fish and 12 times the objects were directed at a stationary camera.

The Times newspaper tells us that octopuses are normally antisocial. They hunt alone and they may fight when they meet up with another. They can sometimes eat each other!

The researchers aren’t, at the moment, completely sure what this missile throwing is all about. It might help an octopus group get along where food is plentiful.

At the moment, the researchers have not seen an octopus retaliate by throwing objects back. The research is published in the journal PLOS One.

They say that “Some throws in what appear to be fairly intense interactions were not directed at another octopus but into empty space”.

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Octopus intelligence

Studies have found that octopuses not only feel pain physically but emotionally too. It is believed that they respond to pain in a similar way to mammals. And octopuses have demonstrated intelligence in a number of ways such as solving mazes and completing tricky tasks to get food rewards. They are particularly adept at getting out of containers.

As you can see, octopuses are regarded as being extremely intelligent. They have a larger brain relative to body size than all other animals except birds and mammals. They are capable of high order cognitive behaviours. They can use tools and they can exercise problem-solving. They have been reported unscrewing jar lids to access food inside.

Judging by the study that I have referred to above regarding throwing objects at one another, there is still more to learn about the octopus in terms of their intelligence and emotions.

It is particularly galling and upsetting, therefore, to see octopuses wrapped in cellophane in polystyrene containers on supermarket shelves as a food. I don’t think octopus should be sold as a food. Although I’m not typical but I think it’s a reasonable suggestion.

Of course, my objection wouldn’t just stop there but that would be a good start. It is believed that octopuses are as smart as your average dog. The brain capacity of the giant Pacific octopus is about the same as that of a dog.

Although, it is believed that dolphins and whales are considerably more intelligent and octopuses.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

2 thoughts on “Female octopuses throw armfuls of silt at sex pest males”

  1. I watched the video the other day and it made me laugh. Funniest thing I ever saw. Unlike human men male octopuses can take rejection, and a shell or two to the head. lol.

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