Gloomy octopuses—also known as common Sydney octopuses [australianmuseum.net.au], or octopus tetricus—have long had a reputation for being loners. Marine biologists once thought they inhabited the subtropical waters off eastern Australia and northern New Zealand in solitude, meeting only to mate, once a year. But now there’s proof these cephalopods sometimes hang out in small cities [qz.com].
In Jervis Bay, off Eastern Australia, researchers recently spotted 15 gloomy octopuses congregating, communicating, dwelling together, and even evicting each other from dens at a site the scientists named “Octlantis.” The international team of marine biologists, led by professor David Scheel of Alaska Pacific University, filmed these creatures exhibiting complex social behaviors that contradict the received wisdom that these cephalopods are loners. Their study was published in the journal Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology [tandfonline.com] (paywall).
The discovery was a surprise, Scheel told Quartz. “These behaviors are the product of natural selection, and may be remarkably similar to vertebrate complex social behavior. This suggests that when the right conditions occur, evolution may produce very similar outcomes in diverse groups of organisms.”
Octopus cities suck.