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Female octopuses seen throwing debris at harassing males: Study

Female octopuses throw debris towards males wanting to mate with them, according to a team of researchers from Australia, Canada, and the United States. The researchers have published an article explaining their findings on the bioRxiv preprint server.

Members of the research team in 2015 documented instances of octopuses hurling objects at other octopuses. It was unclear at the moment if the other octopuses were being deliberately targeted or if it was an accident. The team returned to the same place in Jervis Bay, off the coast of Australia, where a high number of Sydney octopuses reside, to find out.

The researchers were able to see that the female octopuses engaged in different sorts of object-throwing after making more recordings and reviewing them closely. Most of the time, flinging stuff like silt or even shells was only a way to get rid of something that was in the way or when building a nest. Less frequently, they observed females hurling stuff towards a nearby male—usually one attempting to mate with her.

The tossing was done by seizing objects such as boulders, silt or shells and holding them under the body, as per the study. The material was then placed over a syphon, which the organism utilises to push a rapid stream of water. The material was thrown ahead of the jet of water, sometimes several body lengths.

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The researchers discovered many instances of females targeting males when examining the footage. A female hurled silt at a male individual ten times in one situation. They also discovered that when things were thrown towards males, they attempted to duck around half of the time and were successful.

They also observed that material-disposal throws were carried out differently than those intended at another octopus, involving tossing between the two front tentacles, whereas suitor-repelling projectiles were frequently hurled between the first and second tentacles. One female was also seen tossing a shell around like a frisbee with one of her tentacles. They also found no evidence of males retaliating by throwing things back at females who were pursuing them.


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