Octopuses Caught on Camera Slinging Shells at One Another in Bizarre Battle: VIDEO

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by FRED TANNEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

The goings on beneath the surface of the ocean largely remain a mystery. Scientists believe they have a relatively firm grasp on certain species, such as the octopus, but a mere 5% of the ocean has been explored by humans. Who’s to say what’s “normal” when it comes to the countless fish and other creatures of the sea?

A recent study of Jervis Bay, Australia, for example, revealed some bizarre behavior from the water’s octopus population, but can anyone truly say they’re surprised?

I don’t know about you, but when I hear octopuses are having some kind of brutal underwater rock war, my initial reaction isn’t disbelief. It’s more like, yeah, sure…that sounds right. They’re extremely territorial with six arms, two legs, and an endless arsenal of shells and sand, of course, they’re throwing things at each other.

That said, have you ever tried to throw something underwater? It’s far more difficult than it seems. And it’s this detail that makes the sea skirmish impressive. After watching the octopuses battle it out for several days using underwater cameras, Peter Godfrey-Smith, a professor at the University of Sydney, had to agree.

“The throwing, propelling or projecting of objects is rare in the animal kingdom,” Godfrey-Smith told Newsweek. “To propel an object, even for a short distance, underwater is especially rare and also quite hard to do.”

In the astonishing footage, the octopuses can be seen gathering silt, shells, and algae in their tentacles. They then throw their chosen weapon at their competition using jet propulsion.

What’s Causing the Underwater Octopus War?

According to Godfrey-Smith, many of the attacks appeared to be warning shots. Some, however, were direct attacks on other octopuses. “Most throws do not hit any other octopus and are pretty clearly not intended to,” he said. “But some do appear to be targeted.”

Like others of its species, Australia’s gloomy octopus, named for its “world-weary look,” doesn’t play well with others. Octopuses do not enjoy the company of other cephalopods, preferring to live and hunt alone. They enjoy solitude so much, in fact, that contact with other octopi often results in physical fights. Octopuses have even been known to cannibalize the competition.

Unfortunately, while Jervis Bay provides plenty of food for the feisty mollusks, the neighborhood is crowded. The surrounding area is uninhabitable for the octopi, forcing them to live in close quarters. As a result, the octopuses have become even more aggressive than usual in marking their territory.

“It is very hard to know about the intentions of an animal like this,” Godfrey-Smith said. “I suspect the behavior can be something like an assertion of personal space.”

Now, it’s not unusual at all for an octopus to use its jet propulsion to clean its home. The positioning of their arms and the direction of their throws in the footage, however, suggest that the octopuses were fighting, not cleaning. The Jervis Bay footage provides the first evidence to suggest that octopuses will launch targeted attacks on each other when agitated enough.