Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Figure 2: Taunting the Octopus

From the ever-valuable Emperor:
Defensive tool use in a coconut-carrying octopus

Julian K. Finn1, 2, , Tom Tregenza3, and Mark D. Norman1,

1 Museum Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne, VIC 3001, Australia
2 Zoology, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC 3086, Australia
3 CEC, Biosciences, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn TR10 9EZ, UK


The use of tools has become a benchmark for cognitive sophistication. Originally regarded as a defining feature of our species, tool-use behaviours have subsequently been revealed in other primates and a growing spectrum of mammals and birds [1]. Among invertebrates, however, the acquisition of items that are deployed later has not previously been reported. We repeatedly observed soft-sediment dwelling octopuses carrying around coconut shell halves, assembling them as a shelter only when needed. Whilst being carried, the shells offer no protection and place a requirement on the carrier to use a novel and cumbersome form of locomotion — ‘stilt-walking’.