Native Village
Youth and Education news
February 2010 Volume 3

Aussie scientists find coconut-carrying octopus
By Kristen Gelineau

Indonesia: Australian scientists have discovered an octopus that collects coconut shells for shelter. Such behavior may be the first evidence of tool use in an invertebrate animal.

The scientists filmed the veined octopus selecting halved coconut shells from the sea floor. It emptied them out, then carried them under its body up to 65 feet where it stopped. Then it assembled the two shells together to make a spherical hiding spot.

Julian Finn and Mark Norman observed the odd activity in four of the creatures between 1998 and 2008. Their findings were published in the journal Current Biology.

"I was gobsmacked," said Finn. "I mean, I've seen a lot of octopuses hiding in shells, but I've never seen one that grabs it up and jogs across the sea floor. I was trying hard not to laugh."

Octopuses often use foreign objects as shelter, but this display is an example of tool use never recorded in invertebrates before. The findings are significant because they prove how capable octopuses are of complex behavior.

"Octopuses have always stood out as appearing to be particularly intelligent invertebrates," said Simon Robson from James Cook  University.  "They have a fairly well-developed sense of vision and they have a fairly intelligent brain. So I think it shows the behavioral capabilities that these organisms have.

"It's another example where we can think about how similar humans are to the rest of the world.  We are just a continuum of the entire planet."

Watch a video of the octopus!

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