We’ve just witnessed one of the dirtiest fights to ever take place in front of our eyes, with two notable figures getting personal and willing to get their limbs deep in the mud to take down their opponents in a spectacle we just could not look away from.
No we are not referring to John Fetterman winning the Senate campaign for Mehmet Oz –, but octopuses who have been observed throwing objects at one another.
In a study published November 9 in the journal PLOS ONE, the authors recorded octopuses that appeared to intentionally throw things like silt and shells at each other on camera for the first time ever. It’s actually the first observation of throwing behavior in these creatures.
That’s notable because there are not that many animals outside of humans that are known to intentionally throw objects. In the study, the researchers note that there are eight non-human animals including chimpanzees, elephants, and polar bears that have been recorded to throw things at one another.
The researchers analyzed 24 hours of footage of gloomy octopuses in Jervis Bay, Australia recorded using underwater cameras from 2015 to 2016. They discovered more than 100 instances of debris throwing in a group of 10 octopuses.
The study authors cannot say why the octopuses were throwing things at each other, but there are clues to suggest that it was an aggressive rather than playful behavior. The octopuses altered their skin to make it darker, which is associated with aggression. They also threw harder and more often at their targets.
Half of all throws occurred when the octopuses interacted with one another, such as during mating or probing. Nearly 66 percent of throws were performed by female octopuses–suggesting that they were annoyed by their pesky male counterparts (which, look, we get it).
However, the researchers add that there’s simply not enough evidence to show that it’s completely aggressive behavior. For one, the target octopuses never returned fire when they had things thrown at them. Also, none of the hits recorded initiated a fight between the animals.
Regardless of the reason why they threw things, it’s clear that throwing likely plays some sort of social role in the lives of octopuses. Learning more about why they do it gives us a better understanding of the octopuses’ biology and behavior–and potentially help us protect their population. If we know what makes them aggressive or standoffish, we can better put them into environments and habitats that don’t make them want to hurl a shell at the nearest creature.
Octopuses are part of a very exclusive fighting club that loves to toss things at one another, which is not surprising considering their many arms.
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