Female Octopuses Throw Objects At Males That Harass Them, Researchers Discover

Researchers have discovered that female octopuses throw objects at males that harass them to ward off their advances. Analysis of footage taken of octopuses off the coast of Australia showed the animals flinging shells and silt purposely in the direction of other octopuses. While this does happen for various reasons, it was determined that the female of the species is most likely to practice this behavior, and it’s usually at males, according to New Scientist.

  1. Scientists focused on a particular area where octopuses make their dens. Peter Godfrey-Smith of the University of Sydney filmed common octopuses, known as Octopus tetricus, around a site in Jervis Bay. Because the bottom of the bay isn’t overly sandy, it allows the octopuses to make dens and draws many of them to the area known as “Octopolis.”
  2. The cameras captured many things, including the throwing. In addition to capturing fights between the animals as well as their mating rituals, the throwing of silt and shells was also noted. “It’s hard to know how to best describe it,” Godfrey-Smith admitted.
  3. How do they do it? In essence, the octopuses pick up silt, shells, algae, or other objects in their tentacles. When they want to throw them, they angle their siphons and shoot a jet of water, sending the objects far away from them at force. While this behavior can also be used to forge dens or get rid of the leftovers of their meals, it was often seen to be used against overly aggressive males.
  4. Sometimes the males just won’t leave the females alone. Further analysis of the footage in 2016 saw one female octopus throw silt a whopping 10 times at a male from a neighboring den who wouldn’t give up his attempts to mate with her. She managed to hit him five times. As Godfrey-Smith said: “That sequence was one of the ones that convinced me [it was intentional].” The male oftne tried to get out of the path of the hurled objects but didn’t always manage it.

Looks like octopuses are more like us than we ever would have imagined.

Jennifer Still is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience. The managing editor of Bolde, she has bylines in Vanity Fair, Business Insider, The New York Times, Glamour, Bon Appetit, and many more. You can follow her on Twitter @jenniferlstill