Friday Cephalopod: I succumb to peer pressure and will mention Octopolis

Wow. Every person on the planet saw one version or another of this “Octopolis” story and had to send it to me. It was the subject of a Friday Cephalopod a year ago, you know.

Apparently, this is the second octopus city discovered, which is interesting — they’re exhibiting more complex social behaviors.

However, I have two complaints.

  1. A lot of the stories are describing Octopolis/Octlantis as “gloomy”. Why? Is it because the inhabitants aren’t swimming around with toothy grins? The cephalopods look quite normal to me.

  2. A more serious complaint, about this quote:

    The discovery was a surprise, Scheel told Quartz. “These behaviors are the product of natural selection, and may be remarkably similar to vertebrate complex social behavior. This suggests that when the right conditions occur, evolution may produce very similar outcomes in diverse groups of organisms.”

    Nope. You don’t know that. There’s no evidence and no reason to think this behavior is the product of natural selection — quite the opposite, actually. It looks to me like the spontaneous emergence of a novel property of octopus behavior in an unusual and fortuitous environment.


  1. Trip Space-Parasite says

    It looked like “gloomy octopus” is the species name, which I suppose is not much less judgmental.

  2. robro says

    Perhaps it’s because octopuses aren’t swimming around shooting one another because their skin colors are different, like we do in our cheery cities. Color of skin racism must be really complicated among octopus populations.

  3. scottde says

    “gloomy” is the direct translation of “tetricus” in the octopus’ species name, Octopus Tetricus (though I suppose the vernacular name might have come first). Can’t find any mention of why that name was chosen.

  4. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    Because the secret names of the Elders and their SitesOfPower are secret. D’uh.

  5. stwriley says

    Sheer’s quote for Quartz is rather dubious, though his article for Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology is both more judicious and has a much more interesting conclusion. What he points out is that the original site was based around a human artifact while the new site is not, implying that this is not a set of behaviors generated by the presence of the human artifact but is rather a result of other (also by implication) more natural behaviors. In particular, his final paragraph points to the hypothesis that this may be the result of dense food supply in conjunction with limited den opportunities, which applies to both sites. It’s a concept much more grounded in the evidence than his remark about natural selection.

    By the way, Trip Space-Parasite is probably right that the news reports are stressing the “gloomy” angle because the common name of Octopus tetricus is the “gloomy octopus”, even though they seem to be having a grand old time to me.

  6. hemidactylus says

    Don’t “pretend” to look the other way Muersz. This was as it was supposed to be as you knew would happen. Octopus are smart creatures and in the Huxleyian Psychozoa grade. The matter of what they will do with us when they figure out the desiccation thing is scary, seriously scary. You keep talking them up so I assume you either have some pull or are a traitor to us landbound four limbs. I am leaning toward the latter.