Changing Colors Of Fighting Octopuses Reveal Their Social Life

Posted: Jan 29 2016, 4:58am CST | by , Updated: Jan 29 2016, 8:06pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

Octopuses Change Color to Signal to Each Other During Fights
octopuses are using body patterns and postures to signal to each other during disputes. The displays correlate with the outcomes of interactions, and closely matched displays are more likely to result in escalation. These results suggest that interactions have a greater influence on octopus evolution than has been recognized. Credit: Scheel et al./Current Biology 2016
  • Octopuses display Panoramic Color View as Part of their Social Life

It has been found that octopuses display a panoramic color view as a part of their rich social life.

Octopuses were thought to live isolated lives. As for their color-changing habits, they were thought to help them hide from those creatures that hunted them in the depths of the oceans.

But after viewing them closely on an intensive basis, it was discovered that these strange creatures do indeed have a social life and that it is rather dramatic and histrionic to begin with.

Octopuses employ body positions and colors to show each other their stances during scuffles in the marine environment.

"We found that octopuses are using body patterns and postures to signal to each other during disputes," says David Scheel of Alaska Pacific University.

"The postures and patterns can be quite flashy, such as standing very tall, raising the body mantle high above the eyes, and turning very dark."

These poses and patterns can be very complex. They can include standing rather tall, shifting the body high above the eyes and turning their color from fair to dark.

These octopuses belonged to a species termed Octopus tetricus. Thriving off the coast of Australia, these octopuses were discovered by chance. And their behavioral rituals soon piqued the interest of the scientists and researchers who decided to observe them on a daily basis. Over 186 octopus interactions were recorded and followed closely by the experts. There were a total of 500 actions that were caught on film. Seven hours of interacting was viewed very carefully.

A couple of basic and succinct patterns emerged from the data which were compiled as a result. Normally, an octopus with a dark body color approached an octopus with dark coloration and the two started to engage in a tussle with one another.

But when a dark octopus approached a pale one, the latter left the scene as soon as possible. This was intriguing indeed. However, when a light-skinned octopus approached a dark one, the latter stayed where it was, ready to face the challenge.

Therefore, dark colors in octopuses are associated with anger and dominance, while lighter colors are linked with cowardice and submission.

Octopuses often stood up tall and wide with their mantles spread. These octopuses also stood their ground since they were alpha males. The overall strategy the octopuses employed was to appear more powerful than they actually were.

Their interactions and communicational ploys were complex but not incomprehensible. Such social encounters between octopuses are common in such areas where food is available and hiding places are few and far between.

This study was published in Cell Press journal Current Biology on January 28, 2016.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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