Octopuses: surprisingly social

An octopus floating deep in the ocean
Photo: Morten Brekkevold / flickr

By Jillian Jennett
Staff Writer

Scientists once thought octopuses’ only interactions were to mate with or to eat each other. Well, the scientists were wrong.

A recent study, published in the journal Current Biology, focused on the “gloomy octopus” and its social behaviors. Many scientists have thought that octopuses are loners who prefer to stick to themselves as they scuttle around the sea floor.

A research team recorded 52 hours of underwater video, which revealed 186 independent octopus interactions. That’s a pretty steep number for the loner of the sea floor.

Then the scientists began to notice a pattern. One octopus would make itself large, extending all of its arms and turning dark black. Another would crouch down and turn pale. The octopuses, in growing number, appeared to interact with one another through color changes and body language.

Octopuses generally use their color-changing ability for camouflage when hiding from predators or stalking prey.

This new behavior is an exciting find for marine biologists, and this discovery will surely octopi their thoughts for years to come.