Dear Readers, I was completely devoid of inspiration for today’s post until I came across this little gem in The Guardian. It’s actually nearly a year old, but then I’m often the last to know anything exciting. Two raccoons apparently crawled through the air ducts (eat your heart out Tom Cruise) and broke through the ceiling into the bank. I love the photo above – one of the raccoons seems to be checking the coast is clear while the other is acting as lookout. They were spotted by a customer who was withdrawing some money, and after ten minutes the Humane Society was able to usher the animals outside. I just hope nobody had left their lunch around in their desk drawer.
And there’s more! Scientists from the University of Sydney have been studying a population of octopuses who live in Jervis Bay, off the coast of Australia. This is a small area of sandy, silty soil suitable for den building, and so octopuses gather there in unusually large numbers to make their homes. This can lead to social friction, as you might expect. Scientist Peter Godfrey-Smith had observed the animals ‘throwing’ silt at one another, but wasn’t sure until recently if the behaviour was intentional. However, after a lengthy study Godfrey-Smith is sure that it is, and that the females in particular hurl silt at males who are irritating them.
“In 2016, for instance, one female octopus threw silt 10 times at a male from a nearby den who was attempting to mate with her. She hit him on five occasions. “That sequence was one of the ones that convinced me [it was intentional],” says Godfrey-Smith.
On four of these occasions, the male tried to “duck”, though he didn’t always succeed. In two cases, he anticipated the throws from the female’s movements and started dodging before the silt was propelled at him”.
Normally the octopuses just squirt out the silt, but I absolutely love this.
“On one occasion, the researchers did see an octopus throw a shell at – and hit – another octopus by flinging it with a tentacle like a frisbee, rather than by propelling material with its siphon”.
And it’s not just other octopuses that are getting walloped.
“On two occasions, an octopus hit a fish, though one of these collisions appeared to have been accidental. The animals also seemed to target the camera on occasion, hitting the tripod twice.”
The scientists also believe that the octopuses might throw things about when they get frustrated.
“What’s more, some throws that happen after intense social interactions aren’t directed at another octopus but into empty space, suggesting the animals might be venting their frustration.
In one case, after a male’s advances to a female were rejected, he threw a shell in a random direction and changed colour.”
There is nothing about this story that I do not love. It sounds as if we are only at the very start of our understanding of the emotional lives of these remarkable animals.