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Aussie Scientists Find Coconut-Carrying Octopus 205

Posted by timothy
from the concealed-carry-in-australian-waters dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from an AP report: "Australian scientists have discovered an octopus in Indonesia that collects coconut shells for shelter — unusually sophisticated behavior that the researchers believe is the first evidence of tool use in an invertebrate animal. The scientists filmed the veined octopus, Amphioctopus marginatus, selecting halved coconut shells from the sea floor, emptying them out, carrying them under their bodies up to 65 feet (20 meters), and assembling two shells together to make a spherical hiding spot. ... '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.'"
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Aussie Scientists Find Coconut-Carrying Octopus

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  • Video (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:40PM (#30447816) Journal
    From the BBC [bbc.co.uk].
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PenguinX (18932)

      There are apparently more videos on youtube

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DoWdHOtlrk&feature=player_embedded# [youtube.com]

      • Re:Video (Score:5, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:11PM (#30448344)

        There are apparently more videos on youtube

        there are videos on youtube?!? i call bs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Just wait 'til they find the sunken ships... they'll build a navy!

        • by camperslo (704715)

          Just wait 'til they find the sunken ships... they'll build a navy!

          I, for one, welcome our new octopian overlords!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pjt33 (739471)

      They may have the first video evidence, but I'm sure I've heard about octopodes using tools before, and Google turns up one [radthoughts.com] reference almost three years ago about a very similar case, and a 2008 paper [berkeley.edu] (PDF) which reports observation of octopus tool use and references a 1984 paper as describing certain octopus behaviour as probably tool use. I'm not sure from the Google Scholar description of this 1999 paper [elsevier.com] whether it refers to mention of octopus tool use in 1940 or in Roman times:

      ...
      Historia, Liber IX, 48; Plinius Secundus, 1940) reported a description of tool-using behaviour ...

      Perhaps someone with a s

      • Re:Video (Score:4, Informative)

        by ChameleonDave (1041178) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @07:46PM (#30451960) Homepage

        I'm not sure from the Google Scholar description of this 1999 paper [elsevier.com] whether it refers to mention of octopus tool use in 1940 or in Roman times:

        ... Historia, Liber IX, 48; Plinius Secundus, 1940) reported a description of tool-using behaviour ...

        Perhaps someone with a subscription can check it out.

        No need. Pliny's Natural History was published at some point around AD 78. However, when you cite your sources as a scholar, you put the date of the edition you have in your hands. Hence, this person put "1940".

  • by ExE122 (954104) * on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:40PM (#30447824) Homepage Journal
    Is it an African or a European octopus?
    • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn@@@wumpus-cave...net> on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:47PM (#30447940)

      The Monty Python joke wasn't the first post on this story? Fail.

      • by von_rick (944421)
        For all you know, it might be dressing up as the Flying Spaghetti Monster for the holiday party. With all those tentacles, the octopus doesn't have to worry about getting the costume for pasta part. All it needs is something that'd form the meatball part of its costume - thus the coconut.
      • That's not a shelter, it's just two coconuts and he's banging them together!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by g3k0 (1697032)

      Is it an African or a European octopus?

      What? I don't know that! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    • by pitchpipe (708843) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:29PM (#30448558)
      JAKARTA (OP) - Indonesian octopi have discovered a scientist in Australia that uses rubber flippers on its feet for propulsion in water - unusually sophisticated behavior that the researchers believe is the first evidence of intelligence in a vertebrate animal.
    • So? (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tetsujin (103070)

      Is it an African or a European octopus?

      You've got two empty 'alves of an octopus and you're bangin' em together!

    • by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @05:09PM (#30449822) Journal

          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: Halt! Who goes there?
          PULPO: It is I, Pulpo, son of Leggus Tentaclus, from the castle
                  of Cephalot. King of the Invertebrates, defeator of the Squid, sovereign
                  of all the Ocean!
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: Pull the other one!
          PULPO: I am. And this my trusty servant Sucksy.
                  We have ridden the length and breadth of the ocean floor in search of invertebrates
                  who will join me in my court of Cephalot. I must speak with your lord
                  and master.
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: What, ridden on a horse?
          PULPO: Yes!
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: You're using coconuts!
          PULPO: What?
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: You've got two empty halves of coconut and you're bangin'
                  'em together.
          PULPO: So? We have ridden since the Titanic sunk onto this
                  land, through the kingdom of Laurentian, through--
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: Where'd you get the coconut?
          PULPO: We found them.
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: Found them? In the Laurentian Abyss? The coconut's tropical!
          PULPO: What do you mean?
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: Well, this is a temperate zone.
          PULPO: The dolphin may swim south with the sun or the humpback whale may seek
                  warmer climes in winter yet these are not strangers to our land.
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?
          PULPO: Not at all, they could be carried.
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: What -- a dolphin carrying a coconut?
          PULPO: It could grip it by the husk using its blowhole!
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: It's not a question of where he grips it! It's a simple
                  question of grasping ability! A dolphin has no means to carry a 1 pound
                  coconut.
          PULPO: Well, it doesn't matter. Will you go and tell your master
                  that Pulpo from the Court of Cephalot is here.
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: Listen, in order to maintain the ability to breathe,
                  a dolphin needs to keep its blowhole free from obstruction, right?
          PULPO: Please!
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: Am I right?
          PULPO: I'm not interested!
          OCTOPUS GUARD #2: It could be carried by a Great White shark!
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: Oh, yeah, a Great White shark maybe, but not a dolphin,
                  that's my point.
          OCTOPUS GUARD #2: Oh, yeah, I agree with that...
          PULPO: Will you ask your master if he wants to join my court at Cephalot?!
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: But then of course Great White sharks are not migratory.
          OCTOPUS GUARD #2: Oh, yeah...
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: So they couldn't bring a coconut back anyway...
                  [clop clop]
          OCTOPUS GUARD #2: Wait a minute -- supposing two dolphins carried it together?
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: No, they'd have to have it on a line.
          OCTOPUS GUARD #2: Well, simple! They'd just use the stipe of a bull whip kelp!
          OCTOPUS GUARD #1: What, tied to the dorsal fins?
          OCTOPUS GUARD #2: Well, why not?

    • by ozbird (127571)
      "Octopuses? In Mercia?"

      I wonder how long it will take the octopuses to learn how to make the clip-clop noises?
  • But.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by tekrat (242117) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:42PM (#30447866) Homepage Journal

    This is a temperate zone, the coconut's tropical.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:44PM (#30447890) Journal
    These octopi were carrying the shells on their tippitty-toes and seemed to be dancing. To their amazement they found they were dancing to the tune of "I got a bubbly bunch of coconuts....dididi deedi dididi dee Here they are .. Big one Small One One as big as ..."
  • by nametaken (610866) * on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:44PM (#30447894)

    I for one welcome our quasi-migratory cephalopod overlords. The African Swallow has been sacked.

    • I for one welcome our quasi-migratory cephalopod overlords. The African Swallow has been sacked.

      Of course. A swallow is not as clever as an octopus. It's only a birdbrain!

      (I'm so sorry, I couldn't resist.)

  • by Kyrene (624175) * on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:44PM (#30447896)
    But supposing *two* octopuses (octopi?) carried it together!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by xaositects (786749)

      no no, they'd have to have it on a line or something.

    • by eth1 (94901) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:35PM (#30448644)

      octopuses (octopi?)

      octopussies

    • by dfetter (2035)

      "Octopodes" would be the correct plural if octopus were an ancient Greek word, but since it's not, octopuses is it. "Octopi" just makes you look both pretentious and ignorant at once, a feat which may cause people to think you're a libertarian. Avoid this fate.

      • Octopi would be correct if octopus was a Latin word (2nd declension, also octopora, octopus for 3rd or 4th declension--but it isn't any of those either), which makes it as incorrect as Octopodes, but no worse.

        Oh look, now I'm as pretentious as you.

  • by fprintf (82740) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:45PM (#30447920) Journal

    This will be news when they find an African or European swallow doing the same thing.

    • by tool462 (677306)

      At least in the case of the octopus, there is absolutely no question of how he grips it.

  • hurt like the dickens and I felt like I was going to cry, laugh, and trow up all at the same time too!

    • by Abstrackt (609015)

      hurt like the dickens and I felt like I was going to cry, laugh, and trow up all at the same time too!

      You found out your in-laws are coming for Christmas too eh?

  • Intelligent (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Das Auge (597142) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:46PM (#30447930)
    I thought it was understood that octopi have primate-level intelligence. Why is this so surprising?
    • Re:Intelligent (Score:5, Informative)

      by NoYob (1630681) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:50PM (#30447988)
      I once had a pet octopus. It was small about the size of a fist all curled up. It was always moving things around the tank and rebuilding his or her stone "house".
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Tetsujin (103070)

        I once had a pet octopus. It was small about the size of a fist all curled up. It was always moving things around the tank and rebuilding his or her stone "house".

        Aw, that's cute... Just like bunnies!

      • by corbettw (214229)

        The closest I've come to a pet octopus was the last time I went out for sushi. Most delicious sentient creature I've ever had!

        Oh, and it came with a coconut sauce. How's that for irony?

    • Re:Intelligent (Score:4, Insightful)

      by zippyspringboard (1483595) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:51PM (#30448004)
      Because it shows them using this intelligence in the wild, in a natural setting, presumably without human prompting. It's probably not surprising at all to those who study them, but science tends to demand evidence....
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Indeed, they were originally designed to carry such items 6000 years ago.

    • Re:Intelligent (Score:5, Insightful)

      by c6gunner (950153) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:21PM (#30448462)

      I thought it was understood that octopi have primate-level intelligence. Why is this so surprising?

      In the same sense that it's understood that Russels Teapot is filled with Earl Gray rather than Darjeeling.

      It's widely accepted that octopuses are probably more intelligent than any other invertebrates. That's a long way from putting them on the same level as primates.

      • We're standing on the shoulders of giants. We have many ways to communicate concepts and preserve knowledge.

        I'm guessing Octopi are suck with "word of mouth". Looking back in history, passing stuff on from parents to children didn't teach much except how to survive. Took a long time to get to where we are today.

        Then again, in a relatively short period we went from surviving to flourishing. In theory, if we don't interfere with Octopi, they could have a tribal civilization in a couple thousand years!...

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:48PM (#30447962) Journal
    Luckily for us, octopuses live underwater, so they won't have the chance to develop the use of fire, and are nonsocial and fairly short lived, so they won't have the chance to pass on knowledge from one to another.

    Were it not for that, we would probably be fighting for our lives against the many-legged hordes of the deep.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      Are you sure you're not describing slashdotters?

    • by steelfood (895457) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @04:25PM (#30449208)

      What you say is true until Cthulhu rises again.

    • Is there any evidence of a single species, other than humans, passing on knowledge from one generation to another, and actually building on knowledge of previous generations? As far as I know, even primates don't do that. They just go on living the same way as they always did. (I could be wrong though, enlighten me. :) )

      • The keywords for a search are "primate culture", in quotes. Here's one such example: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090112110058.htm [sciencedaily.com] with stone-throwers. This one http://www.usatoday.com/news/science/2001-06-05-animal-usat.htm [usatoday.com] mentions different chimpanzees using different methods for termite-fishing, and various grooming methods, and a Japanese primate who learned to wash sandy human-cut potatoes, without humans teaching her about washing them, and then her tribe picked up the trick and he

      • by sckeener (137243)
        yeah...one primate did...learned some sign language and passed it to her adopted son. http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/cultural/language/chimpanzee.html [mnsu.edu]
      • There are observations of novel tool-use strategies arising in one location and then spreading through primate social structures into other locations and groups, for some of the smarter nonhuman primates.

        There are also numerous species where one or both parents exhibit behaviors that seem to be adapted to the instruction of their offspring(observe cats and kittens, among numerous other examples).

        In organisms that have "songs"(whales, birds, etc.) there is some evidence of particular songs being imitate
        • by corbettw (214229)

          In organisms that have "songs"(whales, birds, etc.) but not draconian copyright laws there is some evidence of particular songs being imitated, modified, and re-imitated across fair stretches of time

          FTFY.

    • Were it not for that, we would probably be fighting for our lives against the many-legged hordes of the deep.

      How many legs do you think that an octopus has? Six of the appendages are used for manipulating objects, and the remaining two are used for propulsion. That give the octopus the same amount of legs as the standard-issue human.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      That's what they say now, but how long until they start assembling weapons of mass destruction? I don't think we can take the chance - the only peaceful thing to do is wipe them all out _now_.

    • by ndogg (158021)

      You laugh now, but wait until I've bred a few generations of social octopodes.

      Actually, this post is just an excuse for me to show off that I know the proper plural form of "octopus," which I might have looked up here [askoxford.com].

  • I, for one, welcome our new fusion-powered [hplusmagazine.com] cephalords.

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:49PM (#30447982) Homepage Journal

    Octopuses and their relatives have been surprising researchers for quite a while. They can show some remarkable intelligence. Us vertebrates have competition. The squishy ones have brains too.

    They have a partially-decentralized brain, which makes for some interesting potential multi-core sci-fi: Planet of the Squids kind of stuff. And if they ever learn to type, they'll be four times more productive than us, maybe even more if a suction-cup-friendly keyboard/mouse is invented :-)

    • There was a really scary show on Animal Planet the other day showing how squid were having an population boom and were spreading up the coast of California. Unlike sharks which for the most part ignore people, the squid actively attacked people.

      You tube clips. [youtube.com]
    • by Quirkz (1206400)

      And if they ever learn to type, they'll be four times more productive than us

      I question this math. Unless they can hit more than one key at a time with a tentacle, our ten fingers are going to go faster than their eight arms. A squid, now, that could at least keep up with us.

  • Look at it walk! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DesScorp (410532) <DesScorp@NOsPam.Gmail.com> on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @02:52PM (#30448020) Homepage Journal

    That is so weird. You don't associate walking with an octopus, but that's exactly what it did... tuck the shell under it's body, and then scamper across the seabed using its tentacles like legs.

  • '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.'"

    Why would you try not to laugh? Afraid of hurting the octo's feelings?

    • Re:Not funny? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:15PM (#30448386) Homepage

      Why would you try not to laugh? Afraid of hurting the octo's feelings?

      While he may be a perfectly sensitive, metrosexual kind of guy, the immediate problem is that he was diving with SCUBA gear. Full out ROTFL in a SCUBA set can be a bit problematic. Deep gasps of water can ruin your day.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Scutter (18425)

        Why would you try not to laugh? Afraid of hurting the octo's feelings?

        While he may be a perfectly sensitive, metrosexual kind of guy, the immediate problem is that he was diving with SCUBA gear. Full out ROTFL in a SCUBA set can be a bit problematic. Deep gasps of water can ruin your day.

        Feh! He obviously has inferior equipment! He obviously needs a ROFL-capable set of SCUBA gear!

      • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:29PM (#30448564) Journal

        Full out ROTFL in a SCUBA set can be a bit problematic. Deep gasps of water can ruin your day.

        To be fair, one is very unlikely to be ROTFL in SCUBA gear. Far more likely is to be FITDL (Flailing In The Deep Laughing).

        Especially so if you screw up the gas mixture in your tank.

        • by i.r.id10t (595143)

          Standard SCUBA is plain air, just compressed. For very deep or deeper and longer dives, you can get certified to do mixed gas diving where it is a mix of helium and oxygen instead of nitrogen and oxygen - avoids nitrogen narcossis and the bends.

    • by Jeremi (14640)

      Why would you try not to laugh? Afraid of hurting the octo's feelings?

      Afraid of losing control of his air regulator and swallowing a lot of seawater.

    • One of the researchers, Dr Julian Finn from Australia's Museum Victoria, told BBC News: "I almost drowned laughing when I saw this the first time."

      Does that make it more clear? It's hard to laugh and use SCUBA equipment simultaneously. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Arancaytar (966377)

      Well, you definitely don't want to piss off an octopus that smart.

  • It's The Professor, he's been reincarnated! Now he can finish that coconut-shell nuclear reactor that Gilligan kept breaking.

  • Not suprising (Score:2, Informative)

    by burtosis (1124179)
    On a trip to Florida, I found a neat clump of shells in shallow water. I picked it up and put it in a bucket along with some other shells thinking it was interesting. A few moments later I had a pile of shells and an octopus looking up at me angrily. So if it's smart enough to roll itself in shells, using it's suckers to keep them on, it’s not too surprising to me that these ones decided to use coconuts.

    Funny thing is that split coconuts probably aren't too common unless people or animals split

  • by Mr_Blank (172031) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:10PM (#30448320) Journal

    This reminds me of the story I have been telling for years whenever someone asks me why I do not eat Octopus.

    From Snopes [snopes.com]

    A while back I heard a story that went like this: in a certain aquarium, fish kept disappearing from one of the tanks late at night. Baffled, the staff put up cameras to find out what was going on, and discovered that an octopus was climbing out of its tank, eating the fish, then crawling back to its own tank.

    Though the story is not verified, directly, there is consensus that the story is possible and is even likely to have occurred.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by dm0527 (975468)
      I can't think of a better reason to eat the little fish thief...
    • It's quite common actually. Many researchers who work with octupi have to make sure that they stay in their tanks. They are quite strong and they can figure out ways of getting out of their tanks.
    • by Hatta (162192)

      I don't understand. What does that story have to do with your willingness to eat octopus?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by myowntrueself (607117)

        I don't understand. What does that story have to do with your willingness to eat octopus?

        Some people believe that eating sentient beings is wrong.

        I'm not vegetarian, but I draw the line at eating sentients.

    • by adamchou (993073)
      why does an octopus eating fish from another tank turn you off from eating octopus?
    • by Ksevio (865461) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @05:06PM (#30449772) Homepage
      There was one aquarium where the octopus was eating the sharks at night before they finally noticed. There's a video on youtube of the octopus attacking that's pretty cool.
  • Oh no, run for your lives! They're preparing the coconut cannon!
    http://xkcd.com/520/ [xkcd.com]

  • by Patrick Manderson (1403265) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:29PM (#30448560)

    I for one welcome our undersea, coconut wielding, overlords.

    There's been a few documentaries on the Discovery channel where they've not only mention how intelligent they were, but even suggested they might have emotions.

  • So it is trying to pretend it is a hermit crab.

    • Either that or it's pretending it's a nautilus [wikipedia.org]. Octopi are relatives (same class, Cephalopoda) of nautiluses, which are the only extant cephalopods with an external shell...that's secreted by the animal and not made of coconut.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jgrahn (181062)

        Either that or it's pretending it's a nautilus. Octopi are relatives (same class, Cephalopoda) of nautiluses, which are the only extant cephalopods with an external shell...that's secreted by the animal and not made of coconut.

        I think GP's point was that the Hermit Crab *does* find an unused shell of suitable shape and size and carry it around, so what's new?

        I don't quite understand why the octopus story is a big deal ... if its behavior is based on instinct rather than rational thinking, it only proves

  • You put the lime in the coconut and get octopus ceviche. The you feel better, etc, etc.
  • CLIP CLOP (Score:3, Funny)

    by popeye44 (929152) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:38PM (#30448694)

    He was using them to make the CLIP-CLOP sound effect for the new theater play his "School" is putting on. The Headless Sea Horse.

  • everyone knows squidward lives in a tikihead

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:48PM (#30448798) Homepage

    '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.'"

    You're laughing now. Just wait until Cthulhu returns.

  • by Schadrach (1042952) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @03:49PM (#30448814)

    I'a! I'a! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn!

  • it's not a question of where he grips it...

Two can Live as Cheaply as One for Half as Long. -- Howard Kandel

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