Story at a glance

  • A new study examined social and mating encounters between octopuses from data and video collected in 2015 and 2016.
  • The data showed female octopuses “throwing” objects in multiple instances where they were being harassed or when a male was attempting to mate with them.
  • There were also instances in which females threw objects at other females, as the act of throwing was also associated with building their nests and removing objects after eating.

Female octopuses have a clever way of fending off males who annoy or attempt to mate with them: throwing things.

A new study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, examined social and mating encounters between octopuses from data and video collected in 2015 and 2016. 

The data showed female octopuses “throwing” objects such as silt, rocks, and shells in multiple instances where they were being harassed or when a male was attempting to mate with them. 


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In one instance, “a single female threw material 10 times, with 5 of these hitting a male in an adjacent den, who attempted several times to mate with her,” the study states. 

However, there were also instances in which females threw objects at other females, as the act of throwing was also associated with building their nests and removing objects after eating.

“Although the most obvious possible social role for throwing is that it functions in aggression directed on other animals, another possibility involves the ethological concept of displacement,” the study states. “This controversial interpretation of some animal behavior holds that animals with elevated arousal, especially frustration, may engage in demonstrative aggressive acts undirected on other individuals, possibly serving as release of the arousal.”


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Published on Sep 17, 2021