TNB Night Owl – Octopus Garden?

Octopus tetricus is hiding under a rock in Clovelly Pool, Sydney, NSW, Australia. Photo by Sylke Rohrlach. (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Jervis Bay, a scenic natural harbor on the southeast coast of Australia, lies approximately 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of Sydney and roughly 90 miles east of the capitol, Canberra. The south side of the bay was set aside as a nature preserve in 1971, eventually becoming Booderee National Park, circa 1995.

Octopus tetricus (common names: the gloomy octopus, the common Sydney octopus) makes its home in the subtropical waters around northern New Zealand and along the east coast of Australia. So researchers from Alaska Pacific University (Anchorage, Alaska) were not surprised to find the creatures living in Jervis Bay in 2009. They were, however, surprised to find several gloomy octopuses living together in a pile of sea shells that must have taken generations of cephalopods to build. The structure was built around a man-made object, possibly metallic, about 30 cm long, which included a number of dens: caves the octopods made in the heap of shells for living quarters. Science had long considered octopuses to be solitary animals that, while extremely intelligent, were not social creatures. To find them living together in a ‘village’ or colony that they themselves had built was astonishing. Since this was the first time this kind of behavior had been observed in cephalopods, they figured this was a one-off, possibly encouraged by human junk that fell off a boat years ago. They named the little settlement, “Octopolis”.

In 2016, the same team of researchers found another village of gloomy octopuses, but this time without any human debris that might have influenced the species like an alien monolith placed among them by a more advanced civilization. There were several large rocks, though, that may have held some kind of geographic appeal. Whatever the case, the new village was named, “Octlantis”, and the inhabitants’ behaviors were videotaped. Interestingly, though the octopuses choose to live together in these colonies, they don’t get along very well, spending much of their time fighting and trying to dominate their peers.

Huh… They’re a lot like humans.

“Socializing with Octopus: Daily Planet” (2:58)

“Scientists Discovered A Never-Before-Seen Octopus ‘City’ — And They Named It ‘Octlantis'” (1:51)

“‘Octlantis’: Bustling Octopus Community Discovered Off Australia” (2:04)

Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Octopoda
Family: Octopodidae
Genus: Octopus
Species: O. tetricus

Binomial name: Octopus tetricus (Gould, 1852)

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About Richard Doud 573 Articles
Learning is a life-long endeavor. Never stop learning. No one is right all the time. No one is wrong all the time. No exceptions to these rules.