Octopuses change color to show aggression and other social behaviors: study

Octopuses resolve fights using color to mark their mood: study

Octopuses are social animals that change their body colors to show aggressiveness and intimidate their neighbors, a video footage of a group of the sea creatures in Jervis Bay revealed.

The previously unknown behavior of octopuses was recorded by a local diver and the study co-author, Matthew Lawrence. It immediately drew the attention of octopus experts, including University of Sydney’s Prof. Peter Godfrey-Smith and Alaska Pacific University’s Professor David Scheel.

They installed underwater cameras to film the marine octopuses’ unusual behavior. The footage captured by the camera showed an aggressive octopus turning black, standing tall and looming over one other octopus threateningly.

Prof. Godfrey-Smith wrote in the study report, “When one octopus sees another dark-skinned octopus approaching, it may 'go dark', indicating that the encounter is likely to escalate …We don't know exactly why they engage in these heated exchanges. It could be an attempt by one or more animals to control territory, as we saw males excluding males but not females.”

Paler colors signify that an octopus is threatened and will soon retreat or withdraw. The researchers also collected evidence of octopuses throwing debris at each other during dispute.

The findings of the new study, published recently in Current Biology, are in contrast to previous studied suggesting that octopuses are generally solitary creatures, and their color-changing abilities are primarily to help them hide from hungry predators.


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