Octopuses are known to be very intelligent animals. Objects capable of adapting to their environment, finding solutions to problems or even using tools. For example, some species are known to retrieve mollusk or coconut shells to protect themselves from potential predators.
Unfortunately, these tools are not always so natural. Octopuses have already been caught using underwater litter such as empty bottles or tin cans as shelter. Observations are becoming more and more frequent according to a study published in February 2022 in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin.
But what are the affected areas, the types involved or the waste used? To learn more about the phenomenon, scientists conducted an unprecedented analysis. They have collected and studied 261 photos and videos taken around the world by citizens or biologists and posted on social networks or in databases.
Twenty species have been observed
The results revealed 24 species belonging to eight different genera in cases of interaction with waste. among them, Amphioctopus marginatus, The famous “coconut octopus” known for using its shells as shelter, which turned out to be the most common.
On the physical side, the authors found that the bottles, with 40% of interactions, were the main waste octopuses use as shelter. By comparison, ‘only’ 24% of cases involved plastic objects and cephalopods were more likely to be climbed on or bury rather than hidden in.
According to the authors, because glass is more solid, it is stronger and sinks easily, which can make it more attractive to underwater creatures. “The texture of glass can also be more similar than that of plastic to the inner texture of seashells, which contributes to its use as shelter.They write in their report.
Additionally, bottlenecks may be more difficult to cross for potential hungry predators. Along with this observation, the researchers determined that Asia was the main continent covered by the collected images and more importantly, most of them were taken between 2018 and 2021.
This may be due to the fact that diving and underwater photography are more frequent and easier to do in today’s activities. But this observation could also indicate that the problem is growing as ocean pollution has become a major concern.
Waste use even in the depths
According to a study published in 2015, about eight million tons of waste are dumped into the oceans every year. A phenomenon that is exacerbated in the absence of concrete measures and no longer excludes any region. According to a WWF report, plastic pollution in particular could double by 2030.
Recent research shows that even octopuses that live in the depths of the Mediterranean are using waste – for the first time, according to the report. “Few studies have focused on the interactions between cephalopods and marine litterThe authors justify.
“Scientific information on this topic has rarely been updated in recent decades.‘, they add. If additional studies are necessary to assess the extent of this phenomenon, these conclusions confirm the adaptive capabilities of cephalopods already suggested by previous work.
“They are very intelligent animals and will use what they have available to continue to shelter and move around while protecting themselves.‘, assured guardian, Professor Mayra Proite of the Federal University of Rio Grande in Brazil who led the study. “They can clearly see that there is a lot of rubbish around and they can use it as a kind of artificial camouflage“.
More trash than shells
In five of the immortal scenes, the researchers found that octopuses can begin to compete for possession of litter. “If these interactions look positive […]It’s not a good idea to think that animals can use trash as shelter because the shells are goneProfessor Prueti emphasized.
Moreover, these interactions may not be safe for octopuses. Certain things in particular can expose animals to toxic products or heavy metals. Thus one of the images collected for the study showed a specimen climbing onto a highly degraded battery.
Octopuses can also get entangled in wreckage, like other marine animals, or hurt themselves with sharp objects. All that informationEssential to help prevent and reduce the effects of litter on octopuses, and to identify gaps in knowledge that deserve special attention‘, the authors conclude.
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