Pharyngula

Pick on someone your own size!

Weep with me.

You know, the rotten little crunchy, jointed thing wouldn’t have stood a chance if he’d been fighting within his own weight-class. I found this video on a blog called Arthropoda — a clearly biased advocacy site for violence on molluscs by the world’s dominant, bullying metazoans.

Here’s what happens when the odds aren’t stacked against the cephalopod.

Although…notice the bit near the end where the narrator refers to “a mere invertebrate”? I think that guy at Arthropoda and I would team up to thump him for that.

Comments

  1. #1 Tigger_the_Wing
    March 4, 2010

    Blue ringed octopus? The wicked shrimp!

    Doesn’t it know that they are needed to keep the population of Aussie Surfers in check?!

  2. #2 ardispark
    March 4, 2010

    For the sake of decency couldn’t they have edited out the guy at the end going “Oh, wow!”?

  3. #3 Roameo
    March 4, 2010

    Forgive my ignorance, but i thought moluscs are metazoa?

  4. #4 SaintStephen
    March 4, 2010

    It’s a horrible thought, but imagine the potential TV ratings for a show that dealt entirely with fights between different animal species. The Romans certainly found the concept interesting, and in modern times one only needs to look at the popularity of the UFC, or even at Michael Vick’s dog-fighting conviction to prove that people are still fascinated by combat in nature. I used to spend long hours as a child purposely initiating fights between different kinds of insects. I got better, thankfully. (Now I blog.)

    Just the other day, I was thinking of how utterly mesmerizing it would be to be able to “scroll” through the vast expanses of geological time, picking out the most interesting conflicts between the multitudes of now-extinct animals. Just imagine the kind of incredible fights-to-the-death that must have occurred millions of times in Nature, all unobserved by humans.

    (*Stops drooling, lights an aromatherapy candle, and returns promptly to sanity*)

  5. #5 Opcn
    March 4, 2010

    I think you just can’t get over how jealous you are of how awesome Dr. Caldwells lab is. Didn’t one of his assistants give a TED talk in 2003 or something like that? Stomatapods are fantastic, I miss mine.

  6. #6 Kevin Anthoney
    March 4, 2010

    Forgive my ignorance, but i thought moluscs are metazoa?

    Yes, but they’re not dominant, bullying metazoa. Yet.

  7. #7 Andyo
    March 4, 2010

    How does the octopus kill the shark? Some kind of asphyxiation? I know they have beaks and such, but that couldn’t be it, could it?

  8. #8 Andyo
    March 4, 2010

    By the way, it’s interesting how they guy who stayed to see what was happening to the sharks, had not only a video camera with him, but also managed to get perfectly lit, multiple-angle, professional quality shots. That guy should be on film, not working at aquariums!

  9. #9 Mike Wagner
    March 4, 2010

    Okay, this is friggin’ bizarre. I was just thinking about mantis shrimp vids and came here to find one posted.

    Don’t tell the theists and the paranormal asshats!

  10. #10 llewelly
    March 4, 2010

    SaintStephen | March 4, 2010 4:42 AM:

    It’s a horrible thought, but imagine the potential TV ratings for a show that dealt entirely with fights between different animal species.

    And apparently there is or was such a show, called Animal Farce-Off.
    It gets linked now and again in the comments on tetrapodzoology, that’s how I found it. Sometimes the CG mostly works. Sometimes it’s just funny. It’s often entertaining.

  11. #11 John Morales
    March 4, 2010

    Poor shark got suckered.

  12. #12 llewelly
    March 4, 2010

    er, I meant it’s not often entertaining.

  13. #13 elasticlogic.myopenid.com
    March 4, 2010

    In response to #4

    As per usual sir, the Japanese have decided to take the lead in gruesome TV shows.

    http://www.japanesebugfights.com/

    Also, PZ, dammit. I sent you an email in which I mentioned that I might be one of your few ( if not the only ) fans who live (permanently, not armed forces) in the Middle East, and you didn’t respond.

    You were probably busy feeding your concealed giant squid colony or something, BUT STILL…

  14. #14 SaintStephen
    March 4, 2010

    @llewelly #12:

    Thanks for the info! I’m going to have to agree with you, though… it was kinda cheesy.

    In the episode you linked to, the salt-water crocodile bites off one of the white shark’s fins with his rolling maneuver, and then just opens its mouth and lets the juicy fin sink to the bottom? I don’t think so. A real croc wouldn’t let a free hors d’oeuvre go to waste.

    Hell, shark fin soup is a delicacy in some Asian countries!

  15. #15 SaintStephen
    March 4, 2010

    @ elasticlogic.myopenid.com #13:

    Now we’re cookin’ with gas! Thanks for the VERY entertaining link!

    (*Snuffs out aromatherapy candle and starts drooling again…*)

  16. #16 Cain
    March 4, 2010

    So they found dead sharks at the bottom of the aquarium; half eaten and covered with sucker marks and beak wounds but couldn’t figure out what was going on. Luckily they were there with a camera and perfect lighting to figure it out eventually.

    Awesome video with unnecessary, manufactured drama.

    I think they mantis shrimp should get a pass for being such a bad ass crustacean and for being able to survive an encounter with a blue ringed octopus.

  17. #17 shargraves
    March 4, 2010

    Better than Megashark vs Giant Octopus… Almost.

  18. #18 francesco.orsenigo
    March 4, 2010

    Hey! Mantis shrimps are awesome!
    And since cephalopods are crustacean-killing machines, I see nothing wrong in some turning of the tables.

    I have a bad dislike however for this kind of cockfight.

  19. #19 True Bob
    March 4, 2010

    Oh the cephalopodanity, and all the octopods screaming around here!…I can’t talk, ladies and gentlemen. Honest, it’s just laying there, a mass of bleeding wreckage, and everybody can hardly breathe and talk…I, I’m sorry.

  20. #20 Alan B
    March 4, 2010

    #16 Cain

    So they found dead sharks at the bottom of the aquarium; half eaten and covered with sucker marks and beak wounds but couldn’t figure out what was going on.

    Is this the current standard of marine biologists turned out by colleges nowadays?

    I’m just a humble 60+ year old student geologist (taken a long time* but I’m getting there …) and even I can produce a good working hypothesis …

    * The Earth wasn’t built in a day … or maybe it was. I’ll ask Ham and Hovind, they’ll know.

  21. #21 alextangent
    March 4, 2010

    Stone it to death I say. Funnily enough, there’s someone out there that agrees with me.

    http://www.afa.net/Blogs/BlogPost.aspx?id=2147492239

    Bible ignored, trainer dies

    You are aware by now that a 12,000 pound killer whale at SeaWorld Orlando killed his trainer Dawn Brancheau yesterday by pulling her into a pool and dragging her around until she drowned, in front of a crowd of stunned guests.

    Chalk another death up to animal rights insanity and to the ongoing failure of the West to take counsel on practical matters from the Scripture.

    What about the term “killer whale” do SeaWorld officials not understand?

    If the counsel of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed, Tillikum would have been put out of everyone’s misery back in 1991 and would not have had the opportunity to claim two more human lives.

    But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn’t kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, “the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:29)

  22. #22 traustifreyr
    March 4, 2010

    Allow me to reveal my ignorance. How does the pussy kill the shark? Poison?

  23. #23 llewelly
    March 4, 2010

    Cain | March 4, 2010 6:18 AM:

    So they found dead sharks at the bottom of the aquarium; half eaten and covered with sucker marks and beak wounds but couldn’t figure out what was going on

    I can’t find the original news story to verify (and it was some years ago), but if memory serves, they did not find “half eaten” sharks; instead, sharks turned up missing, and when they went looking, they found only a few bones, and not enough bones to account for all the missing sharks. Nonetheless – although it was unexpected, it wasn’t a complete surprise, and as you seem to surmise, they knew what was going on, and they knew where to put the lights and camera. But it took a few tries to get a good video. I also seem to recall the opening clips were not originally part of it; I’m pretty sure the first video I saw contained only the final attack.

  24. #24 recovering catholic
    March 4, 2010

    Hey, we don’t really know the outcome of the blue-ringed octopus/mantis shrimp fight, do we now? The octopus still looked pretty feisty to me the last we saw of him (or her).

  25. #25 Hurin
    March 4, 2010

    ?notice the bit near the end where the narrator refers to “a mere invertebrate”? I think that guy at Arthropoda and I would team up to thump him for that.

    “Mere invertibrate”?! Lord Cthulhu will be most displeased! I think I know a certain “mere narrator” who is looking to become a cuttlefish happy meal…

  26. #26 Hurin
    March 4, 2010

    Oops. Looks like I forgot a /

  27. #27 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 4, 2010

    Am I the only one thinking about how I would prepare Mantis Shrimp and Octopus

  28. #28 Epinephrine
    March 4, 2010

    We had a mantis shrimp in our reef tank; what an amazing little predator. Sorry PZ, when it comes to this conflict I’ll always root for the stomatopod :)

  29. #29 ambulocetacean
    March 4, 2010

    Hmmm… if blue-rings are venomous enough to kill humans why couldn’t it kill that shrimp? Is shrimp armour really that tough?

    BTW, if you bring your snorkel to Melbourne you might get lucky and see a blue ring in the bay. The water might be a bit chilly, though.

  30. #30 paulnaveau
    March 4, 2010

    Being a fan of both this blog and wikipedia, i’m beginning to doubt where to go first for any kind of information.
    The wikipedia article on Mantis shrimps http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantis_shrimp
    apparently uses this post http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/05/the_superior_eyes_of_shrimp.php
    by PZ as a source

    Hmm, i wonder how many years i could be stuck going back and forth between pharyngula and wikipedia ;)

  31. #31 Cain
    March 4, 2010

    @20 Alan B
    Alan, I’ve been thinking about going back to school after being out for a decade. How are you finding it?

  32. #32 Peter Ashby
    March 4, 2010

    Back in New Zealand when i was at High School I was a lab monitor in the Chemistry lab for a while. The prep area was shared with the adjoining Biology lab and we hung out with the Bio monitors. They had a cold water local marine aquarium and we watched as a starfish (4″ in diameter) pursued a small rockfish around the tank to exhaustion before catching and eating it. Such a behaviour would not work in the wild with the fish able to escape unless caught hiding in a rock crevice or weakened. But us vertebrates who think ourselves superior to ‘mere invertebrates’ should be careful not to become lunch.

  33. #33 https://me.yahoo.com/hairychris444#96384
    March 4, 2010

    This is cool.

    The BBC documentary she mentions was good too.

  34. #34 Peter Ashby
    March 4, 2010

    @Cain

    Most octopus species don’t have teeth in their suckers, that’s largely a squid feature. So no sucker marks would be found. You are thinking too much of Sperm whale/Giant Squid encounters.

  35. #35 Cain
    March 4, 2010

    @34 Peter Ashby
    I never mentioned teeth and even without them I believe octopuses can leave marks.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/01/friday_cephalopod_affectionate.php

  36. #36 Michael Bok
    March 4, 2010

    You know, the rotten little crunchy, jointed thing wouldn’t have stood a chance if he’d been fighting within his own weight-class.

    Like this?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrTHlT2ChtM

    I know, pretty cheesy video, and I feel like the producers are constantly pushing the octopus towards the stomatopod burrow.

    Although?notice the bit near the end where the narrator refers to “a mere invertebrate”? I think that guy at Arthropoda and I would team up to thump him for that.

    Seriously, it’s time that pompous chordate learned some respect!

  37. #37 Richard Wolford
    March 4, 2010

    I’ve set up and maintained saltwater reef tanks for about 12 years now and I can tell you, mantis shrimp are the bane of the industry. These bastards are fast, deadly, and can cost you a fortune in live stock. You can typically hear clicking sounds in the tank where they live, which can give you a clue (but not always, pistol shrimp do the same thing, but more of a snapping sound), then typically you set up a mantis trap and bait it with whatever meats you can find (ironically shrimp works best IME).

    They’re beautiful tho, and I know several people who keep these in a species-only tank. Actually, friend of mine had his hand split open by one, he was moving rocks and the thing split his palm, finger to wrist. It was gross, had to have stitches, but just goes to show how strong these things can be.

  38. #38 jagannath
    March 4, 2010

    But is there a more insulting word than ‘mere’?

  39. #39 Grewgills
    March 4, 2010

    I never mentioned teeth and even without them I believe octopuses can leave marks.

    Shark skin is considerably tougher than human skin and their blood would not be visibly brought to the surface by the soft suckers of that octopus.

    As was mentioned before the sharks were pretty well munched by morning time and other tank inhabitants likely had their go at the octopus left overs.

  40. #40 amphiox
    March 4, 2010

    Hmmm… if blue-rings are venomous enough to kill humans why couldn’t it kill that shrimp? Is shrimp armour really that tough?

    It’s possible that if the venom is specifically active against vertebrates it might not be as effective on arthropods.

    But, even if it were, and even if the octopus could bite through the exoskeleton (the thin parts at the joints would be most likely to be vulnerable), you try precision targeting a hypodermic weapon while someone 5 times your size and weight is bludgeoning you with a sledgehammer. . . .

    And this was the shrimp’s home turf. The octopus was dumped into a wholly new environment, disoriented, unprepared. . . .

  41. #41 Grewgills
    March 4, 2010

    It’s possible that if the venom is specifically active against vertebrates it might not be as effective on arthropods.

    The primary toxin is tetrodotoxin which blocks Na channels and so blocks nerve impulse transmission. This should be effective on arthropods as well. Notice in the video that the shrimp keeps the octopus moving until it delivers the fatal blow to prevent both escape and retaliation.

  42. #42 kevmc
    March 4, 2010

    A hypothesis for everyone who’s asking how the octopus killed the shark: Most sharks need to stay in constant motion, keeping water flowing across their gills. So I’m guessing that as the octopus held it in place, the shark died from asphyxiation.

  43. #43 Sean O'Doherty
    March 4, 2010

    Woman: [not opening the door] Yes?
    Voice: (mumbling) Mrs. Arlsburgerhhh?
    Woman: What?
    Voice: (mumbling) Mrs. Johannesburrrr?
    Woman: Who is it?
    Voice: [pause] Flowers.
    Woman: Flowers for whom?
    Voice: [long pause] Plumber, ma’am.
    Woman: I don’t need a plumber. You’re that clever shark, aren’t you?
    Voice: [pause] Candygram.
    Woman: Candygram, my foot. You get out of here before I call the police. You’re the shark, and you know it.
    Voice: Wait. I-I’m only a dolphin, ma’am.
    Woman: A dolphin? Well…okay. [opens door]

  44. #44 shonny
    March 4, 2010

    Maybe this one is a natural(!) continuation of the theme?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiFWZ8MC2cE

  45. #45 Ichthyic
    March 4, 2010

    Hey, we don’t really know the outcome of the blue-ringed octopus/mantis shrimp fight, do we now? The octopus still looked pretty feisty to me the last we saw of him (or her).

    no. The stomatopod has one of the fastest, hardest strikes/weight ratio of any animal, period. They typicaly have a “pincher” modified into either a club, or an impaling device (the latter typically hunt fish).

    either can easily break 1/4 glass sheets with a single strike.

    nope, they have double binocular vision, and they DON’T miss. that little octo would have gotten a sledgehammer traveling at the speed of sound right between the eyes.

    no chance.

    [Kwok]

    Did you all know Roy Caldwel was on my dissertation committee at UCBerkeley?

    [/Kwok]

    A hypothesis for everyone who’s asking how the octopus killed the shark: Most sharks need to stay in constant motion,

    this is not correct. only pelagic (open ocean) sharks have developed ram-jet style breathing, and let the gill muscles atrophy (more efficient).

    most sharks utilize pharyngeal muscles to move water manually over their gills.

    not all sharks are tough fighters though, and moreover, they have to have leverage to be able to swim. if you control the tail, it becomes hard for the shark to generate momentum.

  46. #46 Ichthyic
    March 4, 2010

    Hell, shark fin soup is a delicacy in some Asian countries!

    this is actually quite a large problem:

    http://www.iucn.org/?3362/Third-of-open-ocean-sharks-threatened-with-extinction

    There are STILL no global limits for the taking of sharks, even though we have known for decades that their demographics don’t even come close to being able to support a typical commercial fishery.

    Much of the problem is bycatch of the tuna and billfish industry, and very lax enforcement of the few anti-finning laws there are.

    finning is where you bring a live shark aboard (either fished for directly or as bycatch), and you simply cut all the fins off, since that’s by far and away the most valuable part (used in soup and in the HUGE shark-cartilage “alternative health” industry)

    http://www.skepdic.com/shark.html

    at the current rate, your grandkids won’t even know what a shark is, except via old vids.

  47. #47 ambulocetacean
    March 4, 2010

    Hi Amphiox, Grewgills. Thanks for that. Wikipedia says the blue ring feeds on crabs and other crustaceans, so the poison would no doubt work, but I guess the size and ferocity of the mantis shrimp was too much.

    Re octopus v. shark: I noticed that the octopus was holding the shark upside-down. Could this have induced the state of “tonic immobility” in which sharks are paralysed? If so, could the octopus (smart buggers that they are) have discovered the phenomenon during previous encounters with other sharks and now be holding them upside-down deliberately?

  48. #48 ambulocetacean
    March 4, 2010

    Come to think of it, what would the octopus’s motivation be for attacking the shark? Did it want to eat it, did it see it as a threat/competition, or was it just a psycho thrill killer?

  49. #49 Cactus Wren
    March 5, 2010

    Pattern for a cool tentacular scarf in the current issue of Knitty:

    http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEwinter09/PATTtentacular.php

  50. #50 Grewgills
    March 5, 2010

    ambulocetacean,
    The attack looked like a pretty typical octopus ambush, but I wouldn’t rule it out. They are certainly smart enough to learn the behavior given the right circumstances and the octopus would be looking to immobilize the shark as quickly as possible. As to motivation my bet would be on hunger. They are known to eat small sharks in the wild.

  51. #51 ambulocetacean
    March 5, 2010

    It would be cool if the octopus had figgered out tonic immobility. I wonder what goes through their adorable little brains…

    On a total tangent, I became a vegetarian a few months ago, partly because I’d seen too many docos about intensive chicken farming and partly because of the rape of the oceans in general.

    For some reason, though, I stopped eating octopus several years earlier after reading about their intelligence and stuff. I also stopped eating cuttlefish after coming face-to-face with an amazing individual while snorkelling in Sydney.

    It didn’t stop me eating pig and squid, though. Maybe I’d just over-anthropomorphised the squishy little buggers.

  52. #52 TheBlackCat
    March 5, 2010

    Blasphemy! Mantis shrimp rule all! That octopus had it coming. Never mess with a mantis shrimp.

  53. #53 Will Von Wizzlepig
    March 5, 2010

    That seems like an awfully expensive way to amuse yourself. It makes me think of all the videos out there of people smashing LCD tv screens through ‘accidents’ with their wii controllers. It’s not even a very funny idea to begin with, and it seems pretty likely that some of those were completely intentional…

  54. #54 FredGoll
    March 6, 2010

    I find it interesting that the shark is held upside-down. I’ve read somewhere that sharks can be paralyzed by this maneuver, and that certain Orca pods have learned this trick to disable and kill Great Whites. My guess is that this octopus has learned this, or lucked onto it somehow, which gives it time to finish the shark off.

  55. #55 Sili
    March 6, 2010

    Nature, blue in beak and mandible.

  56. #56 jiraltan
    March 9, 2010

    You might want to watch this one.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJ1SPKP3eSA

    It’s in Japanese, but basically, the Peacock Mantis shrimp (the same as in the other video), smashes every other crustacean but quickly succumbs to an Octopus of more or less the same size.

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