Monday, December 14, 2009

What The...?

Inkily, Slinkily,
Tool-using octopus
Armors its body with
Coconut shells;

Film has been shot of this
Gives me the mother of
All "What the Hell?"'s

Excellent coverage by the BBC here.
Dr Mark Norman, head of science at Museum Victoria, Melbourne, and one of the authors of the paper, said: "It is amazing watching them excavate one of these shells. They probe their arms down to loosen the mud, then they rotate them out."
After turning the shells so the open side faces upwards, the octopuses blow jets of mud out of the bowl before extending their arms around the shell - or if they have two halves, stacking them first, one inside the other - before stiffening their legs and tip-toeing away.
Dr Norman said: "I think it is amazing that those arms of pure muscle get turned into rigid rods so that they can run along a bit like a high-speed spider.
"It comes down to amazing dexterity and co-ordination of eight arms and several hundred suckers."


Anonymous said...

So the idea is that they're using the coconut shells to walk faster? That's pretty darn cool. And it looks like fun, too!

Cuttlefish said...

No, not in order to walk faster; it is actually in order to hide, like a hermit crab! Unlike the hermit crab, though, it is temporary--they don't live in the shells.

The walking faster is probably because they are relatively exposed to predators while they are carrying the shells (as opposed to wearing them). The quicker they can get them to where they want to go, the less time they have to be considered a high-protein snack on 8 legs.

Olaf Davis said...

And the fact that they carry them around, waiting to use them at a future point even though they're useless at the moment, is what makes it 'tool use' rather than just - well, 'living in a shell'.

Very interesting, thanks for the link Cuttlefish!

Anonymous said...

Guess I should have clicked the link earlier...

Still quite awesome.

Anonymous said...

I just love the way it tippytoes x 8 off with the shell! And the one who peeps coyly out from under its new shelter is downright huggable, in a slimy, writhing-forest-of-legs-ink-in-your-face kind of way.

Cuttlefish said...

Is there another kind of way, morriganscrow?