“Cephalopods tend to boom and bust—they’re called the weeds of the sea”
We've talked before about how octopuses are so smart and sometimes a little scary.
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Something strange is happening within the oceans. So much life has been collapsing and dying, but there is one group that is multiplying like crazy: octopuses. As soon as they see an opportunity, they take over entire areas.
All cephalopods - squids, octopuses, cuttlefish - are booming in population and no one seems to know why, even scientists. An analysis was published today in Current Biology that indicates that they have been increasing since the 1950s.
“The consistency was the biggest surprise,” said lead study author Zoë Doubleday of the University of Adelaide. “Cephalopods are notoriously variable, and population abundance can fluctuate wildly, both within and among species.”
It is weird because a few years ago, the giant Australian cuttlefish almost went extinct after a sudden population crash.
“They almost disappeared completely,” Doubleday said, and then added that there are some patterns about booms and busts for populations. “We didn’t know how much data would be out there, but we managed to get quite a bit together,” Doubleday said.
The team managed to look at 35 species of cephalopods, spanning all of the major ocean regions from 1953 to 2013. This is a substantial time range, and during that time cephalopod species in many parts of the ocean increased.
So why are octopuses surging when just about everything else is dying?
“Cephalopods tend to boom and bust—they’re called the weeds of the sea,” Doubleday said. “If environmental conditions are good, they can rapidly exploit those conditions because they grow so fast.”
One reason that environmental conditions have improved for the octopus is that humans are eating a lot of fish and killing them with global warming.
“I don’t think it’s any one single factor,” Doubleday said. “But something’s changing on quite a large scale that’s giving cephalopods an edge.”
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“Something’s changing on quite a large scale that’s giving cephalopods an edge.”