Monday, December 14, 2009

Octopus Smarts: take the coconut and run

Here's a piece of light-hearted news that my brother alerted me to from the BBC. Off Northern Sulawesi and Bali, some of the underwater landscape is just silty sand (some divers refer to investigating this terrain as muck diving). For creatures like the octopus, this is a difficult world to find a suitable hiding place.

But Dr. Julian Finn of the Australia's Museum Victoria, has been able to document the ingenious behavior of these eight-armed mollusks. Dr. Finn reported - and captured on video - several octopi not only using discarded coconut shells as safe habitats - but portable ones at that. The octopus would climb aboard the empty shell and then stiffen it's legs and literally walk across the sea floor with its new-found home in tow.

It's hard to describe but hilarious to watch. Click the image below to link to the BBC online article and video.
The interesting thing, from a scientific point of view, is how this demonstrates a rudimentary use of tools. It's one thing to find adequate shelter regardless of what it is - a crevice in the reef, a discarded tin can, whatever - but it's a whole different thing when the animal realizes the object's importance and devises a means to take it along and use when needed.

As aquariums have often discovered, the octopus is very curious and capable of investigating its surroundings and finding ways to escape. Here's another example to prove they're smarter than your average cephalopod!


hardwood kitchen table said...

Weird stuff the octopus is doing! I can't blame the animals if they are behaving that weird. Climate is changing and they are affected.

RTSea said...

Well, there are certainly some animal's whose behavior is being affected by climate change, but in this case it's just the resourcefulness of the octopus in finding a suitable habitat in a location that has always been devoid of other more natural accommodations.