Octo Throws

Mommm, sis threw a rock at me!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

From dodgeball to water balloons, we humans love throwing things at one another. But are we the only ones who get our kicks from flinging flotsam?

Peter Godfrey-Smith at the University of Sydney and an international team gave the question a hurl. They collected and analyzed over twenty hours of octopus footage! These eight-armed movie stars were seen throwing silt, shells, and algae. Using their powerful siphon, they shot water to propel objects forward.

So are these throws aimed at others? Over half of the throws happened within two minutes of an interaction with another octopus. And about a third of those social throws actually HIT another octopus! It seems like these mollusks are capable of making TARGETED throws. More research is needed to figure out why they do this.

Next aquarium trip, keep an eye out for a feisty octopus seashell fight!!

Reference: Godfrey-Smith, P., Scheel, D., Chancellor, S., Linquist, S., & Lawrence, M. (2021). In the Line of Fire: Debris Throwing by Wild Octopuses. BioRxiv, 2021.08.18.456805. https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.08.18.456805