Human Coconut Waste Becomes Perfect Abode for Octopus

Australia Coconut OctopusIn this Dec. 10, 2009 photo taken near Indonesia and released by Museum Victoria, a veined octopus, Amphioctopus marginatus, hides in a coconut shell. Photo: AP

Not long ago Green Prophet reported strange activity of corals eating large jellyfish, as a possible response to global climate change. A team of young Israeli scientists got the pictures.

Even more bizarre behavior, the AP news source reports, Australian scientists working in Indonesia have found an octopus that collects discarded coconut shells and turns them into small homes on the sea floor. Reporting their findings in the journal Biology, they say it’s the the first instance of tool use in invertebrates, that has ever been reported. (Invertebrates are animals without spines).

The octopus, Amphioctopus marginatus, chooses its half coconut shells, empties them out, hauls them about 20 meters across the sea floor and assembles two together to make a perfect hide-out. Why are they doing it?

According to the AP: “I was gobsmacked,” said Finn, a research biologist at the museum who specializes in cephalopods. “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.”

Watch him with the coconut. It’s even better in German:

Octopuses have been known to use found objects for shelter, but by carrying them and assembling as shelter- this is a whole new part of the story.

Why this is tool use? The researchers explain:

“What makes it different from a hermit crab is this octopus collects shells for later use, so when it’s transporting it, it’s not getting any protection from it,” Finn said. “It’s that collecting it to use it later that is unusual.”

Animals collecting human waste for useful purposes? Well at least coconut shells are natural. What are the chances that turtles will start piling plastic bags in the sea together, turning them into a sun tanning bed?

::AP via LA Times blog

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