How could you not love an octopus? They look amazing, can change shape and colour, and are pretty clever. Even more clever than we thought – a few have been seen using coconut shells as protection from predators.
Apart from coming with a brilliant video showing just how great octopuses (podes? podoi? who knows…) are, this news is cool because it’s another example of animals debunking the myths about them.
Once upon a time scientists thought that only the ‘best’ animals (humans) used tools. Pretty soon it became clear that this was rubbish – chimpanzees use sticks to fish ants out of their nests, and dolphins use bits of sponge to protect their noses when they’re finding food on the seafloor.
So maybe only mammals use tools? No, that one’s wrong too. Birds use sticks in a similar way to chimpanzees, and one particular species, the New Caledonian crow, has even been seen to make its own tools in the lab.
Clearly tool making isn’t a ‘human characteristic’. And since octopuses are invertebrates and so only very distantly related to humans, their clever use of coconut shells is even more impressive (and perhaps even more confusing).
Luckily not everyone has a low opinion of invertebrates. One documentary I watched even had a lovely quote from an octopus researcher – he said that if they only lived for a little bit longer they might have established their own civilisation by now. I’m hoping the coconut shells are just the first step.