“8-armed bullies of the sea” Punch Fish just because they can


It turns out that it’s not just humans who are involved in an argument over something wicked. New research shows squid do that too! After all, it makes sense because they have eight arms to hit with.

Octopuses have been spotted punching fish on several occasions, particularly the fish they hunted with. In some cases, the fish likely deserves the hit. But in other cases the beating seems completely inappropriate. So is it possible that octopuses are simply doing this to harass the fish? Or is there a deeper reason for this?

Image: @ JACK969Van / Facebook

Spiteful Octopus Punches

The researcher Eduardo Sampaio observed these octopus blows firsthand. The first time he saw it, he burst out laughing, which almost made him choke on his scuba gear. Then he turned to Twitter to share this amazing discovery that was recently published in the magazine ecology.

Octopuses often work with fish to hunt and find food more effectively. By hunting together, they can cover more space with octopus, which search for prey between the rocks and the fish swimming over them. But sometimes octopuses get angry with their teammates, much like people do with stressful jobs. To express themselves, octopuses sometimes beat their fish companions.

“The fish would be marginalized or actually leave the group. Sometimes it came back after a while, sometimes it didn’t come back at all. The squid would leave the fish alone after it displaced it, ”said Sampaio.

Octopuses are known to throw strikes when in danger, but these random, occasional strikes are news to researchers. The truth is that these two species are strictly partners, not friends. So they can act in ways that they only benefit sometimes.

Octopus with fish
Image: Screenshot, GeoBeats Science YouTube

Why do octopuses beat fish?

Some squids seem to have a good reason to hit fish while others just seem to do so for fun. Sampaio stated that octopuses will only take care of themselves during these hunting sessions. Your hunting partners can easily be discarded when the squid doesn’t need your help.

“Despite working together, each partner will always try to maximize their benefits,” said Sampaio. “In those cases where prey is readily available, the octopus appears to use ‘punch’ to control the partner’s behavior in a selfish way.”

But don’t hit all squids to get fish out of the way. Instead, some seem to just do it because they’re upset or because they feel like it. Some researchers suggest octopuses strike because it’s easier than actually working with the fish. Others believe they are hitting to punish the fish, which could make the fish better partners in the future. However, all explanations for these behaviors are speculative.

Researchers will continue to monitor this octopus behavior in the hope that their questions will be answered. They want to know what context can lead to a fish being hit and whether there are certain species of fish that would rather hit octopuses. While we can’t make any final conclusions yet, there’s one thing we can safely assume: octopuses are vicious creatures that you probably won’t want to mess with.

Check out some octopus punches here:

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Featured image: @ JACK969Van / Facebook

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