Tool-Using Octopus: Coconut Shells Become Body Armor

By Brett Israel | December 14, 2009 6:30 pm

We should probably stop being amazed at the things octopuses can do and just accept that they’re just unfathomably cool (pun fully intended). Case in point: The veined octopus totes around coconut shells that it then hides in. Check out the footage, courtesy of Australia’s Museum Victoria:

In another video on YouTube that Ed Yong features in his post on Not Exactly Rocket Science, a coconut-clad octopus is strolling along the ocean floor on two tentacles and doing a pretty good job of disguising itself as a rolling coconut.

So what’s the big deal? Well, as Yong points out, the veined octopus uses the coconut shells as actual tools and is able to deploy them as needed. Unlike hermit crabs that live inside their body armor, the veined octopus only uses its armor when it senses danger. It’s able to seal itself inside a hollow coconut husk using its suckers to hold two halves of a shell in place.

Because it has the foresight to carry around the components of a make-shift panic room, this means the octopus is even smarter than originally believed. Scientists are now discovering that some marine invertebrates possess abilities once thought to be reserved for humans.

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Video: Museum Victoria

MORE ABOUT: Ocean, octopus
  • some guy

    amazing footage!

  • Nurse Grace

    I’m reminded of Douglas Adams and how mice and dolphins are the supreme intelligences on earth. Buddhists revere all sentient beings. I really do not believe that we humans are the supreme, or most intelligent, life force, on this planet (just look at how we are in a race to kill this beautiful blue planet and you can feel like we are the stupidest sentient being on the planet).

  • Mrs. Accountability

    Wow. It’s hard to get my brain to recognize that the octopus is rather small, instead it seems that the coconut shells are gigantic. Very very cool to see how it carries the shell upside down, tip-toeing.

  • tom

    While the behaviour is interesting it doesn’t seem that amazing. I suppose it could be called tool use at a stretch, but given the environment and the long term availability of the coconut shells which happen to be particularly useful size and shape, it’s a lot closer to nesting behaviour than it is tool use. Dragging a mobile piece of the environment and hiding under it

    You could argue that a bird that takes bits of straw and uses them to build a structure is exhibiting more complex behaviour than the coconut octopus, yet no-one seems to infer advanced intelligence from birds nests

  • Jason

    tom, I don’t think we have enough information. From the interview the guy says they pack them away for future use if under threat attack.

  • Jason

    threat of attack


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