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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

New study shows female octopuses ‘throw’ objects at males when harassed, netizens go overboard with memes

The finding has provided rich fodder for meme-hungry social media users with some pointing out that the issue of harassment is true “across the species”

By: Trends Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 21, 2021 12:00:30 pm
Dubbing it "very powerful", netizens rooted for female octopuses.

Ask any woman what she does to fend off unwelcome overtures from the opposite gender and you’ll probably learn of a few tricks up her sleeve. Apparently, matters aren’t too different deep down in the oceans where female octopuses have been found to “throw” things at males when they feel harassed!

The interesting findings have provided rich fodder for meme-hungry netizens with some pointing out that the issue of harassment is true “across the species”.

In a new study, researchers have come across an interesting behavioural aspect of the eight-limbed creatures which indicate that they pelt males, who approach them in an attempt to mate, with shells and debris. The preprint research paper, titled ‘In the Line of Fire: Debris Throwing by Wild Octopuses’, studied the various throws the sea creature resorted to.

The researchers underlined that throwing objects “is an uncommon behavior in animals” and has “sometimes been seen as distinctively human”. However, while closely observing wild octopuses off the eastern coast of Australia they found the behaviour to be pretty common.

They noted that the sea creatures “frequently propel shells, silt, and algae through the water by releasing these materials from their arms while creating a forceful jet from the siphon held under the arm web.” Some of the throws appeared to have fixed targets of the same species and “were significantly more vigorous”.

Initially the experts, who first observed the behaviour in 2015, wanted to find out if such acts were accidental. New findings have helped them confirm that it is deliberate indeed. Now, netizens can’t stop sharing relatable jokes, GIFs and memes to sum up their feelings.

In the paper published on bioRxiv, researchers said in such attacks, the octopuses “more often used silt, rather than shells or algae.” The high-vigour throws were significantly more often accompanied by uniform or dark body patterns, they ruled. “Some throws were directed differently from beneath the arms and such throws were significantly more likely to hit other octopuses. Throws targeted at other individuals in the same population, as these appear to be, are the least common form of nonhuman throwing.”

For the study, researchers captured the animal’s behaviour on camera multiple times over the years. In one example captured in 2016, a female octopus was seen throwing silt at a male who was attempting to mate with her. “She threw silt at him ten times, hitting him on five of those attempts. The male occasionally tried to dodge the sentiment but was only successful around half of the time,” Newsweek said in a report.

“That sequence was one of the ones that convinced me [it was intentional],” one of the researchers, Peter Godfrey-Smith told New Scientist. Explaining how it is different from removing obstacles while building a nest, he said that the throws used during “den-building were almost always shot between the front two tentacles”. However, when trying to throw it at a specific target, the octopuses sometimes angled the throw between the first and second tentacles on the left or right. “That suggests a kind of targeting,” says Godfrey-Smith.

Herald Sun reported that while the males sometimes did “raise their tentacles up in defense”, they however, “didn’t retaliate”. The report also added that the throws didn’t trigger any fights.

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