These socktopuses throw a mean — and random — octopunch.
A new paper published Friday in the journal “Ecology” has found that octopuses punch fish — sometimes to ensure collaborative hunting, and sometimes just ’cause.
“OCTOPUSES. PUNCH. FISHES!!” study co-author Eduardo Sampaio excitedly tweeted of his research’s publication. “This was probably the most fun I had writing a paper. Ever!”
Octopuses and fish are known to hunt together, mutually benefitting from the other’s strengths — except when the tentacled ocean thugs decide to randomly deck their collaborators right in the scales.
An octopus punch looks like “a swift, explosive motion with one arm directed at a specific fish partner,” the paper describes — an act which costs octopuses little of their zeal. “[Actively] punching a fish partner entails a small energetic cost for the actor (i.e. octopus),” the authors explain.
Researchers recorded eight octopus-on-fish fight videos between 2018 and 2019 in the Red Sea involving a diversity of victims, including squirrelfish, blacktip, lyretail, groupers, yellow-saddle and goatfishes.
While six of the fisticuff outbreaks could be linked to obvious octopus motives — including the wholesome desire to “ensure collaboration” — two appear to be wanton acts of fish violence. The researchers do not fully understand why octopuses sometimes have violent, purposeless episodes but believe it could simply be “spiteful behavior” or a form of “punishment.”
How hurt the fish are by such outbursts — physically and emotionally — are also currently beyond the knowledge of science.
“We’ve never seen permanent marks or anything like that from getting punched, but can’t say for sure if fish are hurt or not. It’s clear they don’t like it!” Sampaio tweeted.
In addition to experiencing apparently unnecessary spurts of aggression, octopuses are also similar to humans in giving hugs, dreaming, being negatively impacted by climate change and preferring feely-touchy group hangs to chilling alone with a Chewbacca action figure when dosed with molly.
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