The octopus is one of nature’s smartest and most enigmatic creatures, seemingly able to engage in some of the more complex thought processes in nature while also taking advantage of its unique physical abilities. Recently, some angry cephalopods were discovered to be assaulting fish by striking them with an arm.
Their taste for violence doesn’t end there. A new study demonstrates that when an octopus wants to be left alone, it’s not above tossing the nearest object at the noggin of its target.
Researchers at the University of Sydney published their findings in the science journal bioRxiv, and it’s clear that octopuses have a low tolerance for unwelcome visitors. Observing them off the eastern coast of Australia, scientists witnessed octopuses hurling shells, algae, and other debris at other octopuses in an effort to warn them off.
Octopuses don’t “throw” objects the way a human might. Instead, they use their arms to position the object in front of their siphons, which can produce a jet stream of water that propels the material into their adversary.
This behavior has been observed before, but this new study shed some fresh light on their motivations. The footage obtained via GoPro cameras captured a number of female octopuses throwing shells at would-be male suitors, a kind of swiping left using blunt force.
In these cases, the males were not always discouraged. One bachelor was hit 10 times but stuck around. Others attempted to dodge the projectiles.
Octopuses can toss objects for other reasons. They may, for example, want to clean up their living space by removing clutter. In some cases, that unwanted garbage may also mean a pushy mate.
[h/t Science Alert]