Octopuses ‘punch’ collaborating fish when hunting

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Octopus

A study led by Eduardo Sampaio, a researcher at the Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre in Lisbon, discovered that octopuses have a tendency to punch collaborating fish in a bullying manner when hunting and they are not sure why.

The octopus has the largest brain to body mass ratio of any invertebrate and indeed it is larger than many invertebrates although not mammals (a measure of intelligence). They have as many neurons in their brains as dogs at around 500 million. So they are smart compared to the other animals in the seas although there are exceptions such as dolphins and porpoises.

Octopus

Octopus. Image by Erik Tanghe from Pixabay

Perhaps it is the octopus’s intelligence which drives it to this bullying behaviour in line with the behaviour of alpha male humans dominating business and becoming the ‘elite’, hogging capital and becoming ever increasingly rich (my thought).

Octopuses have been known to escape captivity and solve problems, even use tools but they sometimes deliver “a swift explosive motion with one arm directed at a specific fish partner, which we refer to as punching”. This is the conclusion of the researchers.

Why do they do this? It may be because the octopus is keeping the fish, with whom it hunts, in line, in order that they work better together. These are joint hunting sessions in which the octopus looks for prey within rocks while other fish such as yellow-saddle goatfish search the seafloor in a wider perimeter. Other fish such as the smooth cornet fish act as guards. It’s a nice harmonious cooperative until Mr bully boy thumps one of the partners.

There appears to be no logical reason for it other than, as mentioned, it helps to keep the fish in line and working together. Because different species of animal work together the hunting sessions are predisposed to conflicts between the partners so perhaps the octopus is taking charge and ensuring that there is no misbehaviour.

If that isn’t the reason then it is a case of bullying for the pleasure of it. Under this proposal there would be no benefits. It is simply the spiteful behaviour of a more intelligent species.

The report is published in Ecology. More research is required, the report states, as a relationship between octopus and fish when hunting is complicated.