Octlantis: City Where ‘Gloomy’ Octopuses Live Together Discovered Near Australia

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A detail of the Sandburg sandcastle (built by humans, not octopuses) is seen on September 1, in Duisburg, Germany. Getty

For almost eight years, the citizens of Octlantis have been making their home at the bottom of the ocean off the coast of Australia. A team of researchers headed by marine biologist David Scheel found a group of more than a dozen octopus tetricus living in dens made of discarded shells near Jervis Bay.

This is the second time that octopus tetricus, the "gloomy octopus," was found congregating in settlements like this. The first such “city” was found by human researchers in 2012. Ripe for puns, (the initial discovery was dubbed “Octopolis,” the new one “Octlantis”) these cities challenge the long-held idea that octopuses are mostly solitary creatures. (Though, as Ars Technica notes, these residences are perhaps better described as villages, given their size.)

After happening upon Octlantis, the researchers left cameras around the site. Their footage shows behaviors ranging from one octopus “evicting” another from its den to attempts at mating (some more successful than others) between octopuses in nearby dens.   

octopuseviction One octopus evicted another from its den (frames captured from video). David Scheel/Alaska Pacific University/Marine and Freshwater Behavior and Physiology

The behavior patterns in Octlantis look a lot like those the researchers observed in nearby Octopolis. And that suggests a potential pattern.

The researchers also note that these cities didn’t come out of nowhere. Octopolis, the first city, was built around an unidentified human artifact made of metal. And in past work, Scheel has described how each octopus gathers the shells and husks of their hunted catches to spread their cities outward, providing resources for other animals in the area.

In recent years, growing evidence of octopuses’s intelligence has captured the popular imagination in books like Peter Godfrey’s Other Minds. Along with urban planning, they’ve also been observed to engage in play, which is considered a sign of intelligence.

Still, there aren't necessarily countries’ worth of hidden octopus cities that have eluded researchers’ eyes. As Scheel told Quartz, “Congregations such as these probably occur wherever shelter is limited to small patches of habitat and food is plentiful.”

Nevertheless, should researchers find more such cities, more names will be needed.

And until or unless scientists find that octopuses are capable of written language and creating names for themselves, for science’s sake, Newsweek submits: Octlanta, Octoville, Octopia, Octlahoma, Octopyongyang, Octomaha, Calamarimazoo (squids are not octopuses, but bear with us), Octorlando, Octokinawa, Oslopus, Octopeoria and Languedoctopus Rousillon.

 

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