The gloomy octopus, a species who resides in subtropical waters off eastern Australia and northern New Zealand, is usually an antisocial creature. In fact, the octopus meets with other octopuses only once a year to mate. But new discoveries may change what scientists thought they knew about the introverted octopus.
On September 19, 2017, marine biologists discovered a group of octopuses living together. They seemed to be communicating and dwelling with one another. Scientists named this peculiar community “Octlantis.”
Living in a community has its pros and cons for these cephalopods. For example, when octopuses live together, they can gather more food. But this also attracts more predators, like sharks. Further, male octopuses who live together display a lot of aggression and spend significant amounts of time chasing each other out of their dens.
Octlantis is neither the first nor the only recorded community of octopuses, however. In 2009, scientists discovered an octopus community near Jervis Bay, off of eastern Australia, which they named “Octopolis.” At the time, they thought the octopuses were gathering due to the presence of an unidentified object around which they built their dens. But evidence that there was no such object derails this theory.
Scientists are still trying to figure out why some octopuses have started living in communities. Some think the octopuses are evolving, while others think it is actually the human ability to observe the octopuses that has evolved—and octopuses have lived in communities all along.