Octopuses have learned to use ocean debris, study shows

(ORDO NEWS) — Whether it’s mimicking venomous creatures or blowing water at aquarium switches to turn them off, octopuses aren’t known for being resourceful. Now an analysis of underwater images shows that octopuses are increasingly using discarded bottles, cans and other human debris as shelter or shelter for their eggs.

The study – the first to systematically assess and characterize octopus use of debris through crowdsourced imagery – analyzed hundreds of underwater photographs posted on social media platforms and image databases or collected by marine biologists and diving teams.

A study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin found 24 species of octopus hiding inside glass bottles, jars and even an old battery; buried themselves under a mixture of bottle caps and shells; even carried plastic objects, moving “on stilts” on two tentacles to hide from predators.

“The deep-sea records were extremely interesting because even at great depths, these animals interact with debris,” says Maira Proietti of the Federal University of the Rio Grande in Brazil, who led the study. They can clearly see that there is a lot of debris around, and so it can serve as a kind of artificial camouflage.”

“It shows their extreme adaptability. They are very intelligent animals and they will use everything they have at their disposal to continue to take cover or walk under protection.”

The octopuses appeared to have a preference for undamaged items as well as dark or opaque containers, with the most frequently recorded interaction being the use of debris as a hiding place.

Proietti said: “While these interactions may seem positive for the animals because they lack natural hiding places such as shells, don’t think that the animals can use garbage as a hiding place because the shells are gone.”

Hiding or laying eggs inside discarded tires, batteries or plastic items can also expose octopuses to heavy metals and other harmful chemicals, she said.

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