Accident and intent in an octopuses' garden

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 08:07:20 AM. Intentional actions by usually solitary octopuses improve a sandy site, allowing group living in Octlantis.
External Link: An Octopuses' Garden (The Conversation) We recently published a scientific report of octopuses living together in unusual numbers at a site on the south coast of New South Wales. Then things got a little out of hand. Introducing the gloomy octopus The gloomy octopus, named for large eyes that can give the animal a doleful appearance, is the most common local octopus in NSW waters. Octopus tetricus, to use its scientific name, has usually been thought of as a solitary animal, and that has been the stereotype associated with most octopus species for many years. The recent discovery of a site in Jervis Bay, Australia where these octopuses gather in quite high numbers is challenging that perception, and revealing some striking behaviours. The site consists of three rocky outcrops, around which octopuses have built up an extensive bed of discarded scallop shells, mixed with some human debris. Photo: A gloomy octopus swims over "Octlantis". (Supplied: Peter Godfrey-Smith) We think there is a process of "positive feedback" operating at the site. As scallops are brought back to the site to eat, the discarded shells provide material for additional octopuses to dig burrows. The shells line and stabilise the shaft-like dens. When the site was discovered in 2016, a total of 15 octopuses were present, along with several unoccupied dens. This is the second site of its kind discovered. The first, reported in 2012, seems to have been formed around a discarded object, now...Read more
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