Octopuses ‘Throwing’ Projectile Weapons, Says GC Study

Peter Godfrey-SmithDistinguished Professor Peter Godfrey-Smith (Philosophy) recently uncovered evidence that octopuses living on a bed of shells at Jervis Bay, Australia, are “throwing stuff” at one another in what might be the first documented use of projectile weapons among the eight-legged creatures.

Godfrey-Smith’s discovery appeared in a New Scientist article, “Octopuses Seen Throwing Things May Be Using Shells as Weapons,” which includes video of the marine creatures engaging in unusually combative behavior.

Godfrey-Smith presented his findings earlier this month at the Behaviour2015 conference in Cairns, Australia.

“In the ‘throwing’ behavior, [the octopus] gathers up a pile of stuff in its arms, and then directs the jet under the web of its arms, and throws out all the stuff under pressure,” Godfrey-Smith told New Scientist. “So it’s a throw rather than a spit, though the throw uses water pressure — it uses a sort of inverted jet propulsion.”

Godfrey-Smith cautioned that he is not yet sure that the throwing behavior is intentional. Possibly, New Scientist noted, the octopuses are reacting to “unusually crowded conditions at Jervis Bay.”

Although octopuses are solitary by nature, they face a shortage of suitable alternative nesting sites, and the bay offers an abundance of scallops — their favorite food.

Submitted on: AUG 31, 2015

Category: Faculty Activities | General GC News