Dats not a cave! You gots two coconuts and yous bangin em togetha

A research team led by Julian Finn of the Museum of Victoria in Melbourne has discovered octopuses using coconut shells as portable protection. Not only do they hide under single halves but will actually pull two halves together and hide inside, like some sort of Super Mario baddie. The video is remarkable.


Using tools means octopuses now join an elite club of wise animals including chimps, dolphins, and Tim Allen.

Thanks to Salem for sending this along.

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Cool? Yes. But I call shenanigans on this being called "tool use." This isn't much different from hiding under a rock. The octo-work appears less advanced than a bird making a nest.

But if you showed me an octopus harvesting a coconut, then cracking it in half with an arrowhead it had crafted, then hiding in the shell, that would be tool use.

Fascinating. I am not sure what constitutes tool use in the strict scientific sense, but the fact that they carry it srond with them is convincing. Which leads me to wonder why hermit crabs are not on the list - just ahead of Tim Allen.

If you read the article in the Guardian it details specifically why this situation counts as tool use, and why hermit crabs do not.

My faaaaaaavorite video that I can't find is of the coconut octopus running along on the ocean floor, holding the coconuts up. Its running on two arms, looks like a little kid with long socks!

Octopi are so groovy. At first I thought the coconut was kinda awkward and unwieldy to carry around, but then it takes off running :o

Coco-Pus!

Totally fun, and I love how the clever beastie gloms on to the camera in the end.

I loved the video, but I'm not convinced.

The Guardian article says "What makes it different from a hermit crab is this octopus collects shells for later use, so when it's transporting it, it's not getting any protection from it," Finn said. "It's that collecting it to use it later that is unusual." http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/15/coconut-shell-octopus…

Fair enough, if that's the criteria for tool use. But it seems kind of weak, just carrying something around with you. Then again, we are talking about a mollusc.

Reading through comments I agree with "tool" issue. While very intuitive, it does seem more of a simple enviromental prop than a tool with a specific purpose. If it were hunting or something maybe, but hiding...not so much

planning and carrying for future use is much cooler than using a 'tool' for an immediate need -- no? that has to bump some sentience up a notch

By neuralstatic (not verified) on 21 Dec 2009 #permalink

Yes, planning is definitely a sign of intelligence. The problem is, how do we know the octopus was actually planning anything? Maybe it just likes to carry around coconut shells. Then when it got tired, 'hey, I've got a convenient home here! How crazy is that?'

I do think the octopus probably did have a shelter in mind when it picked up the coconut, but I can't really know that.

...

I for one welcome our Cephalopod Overlords. ;-p

Come on... tool using aside this is just ONE more amazing thing that our octopod friends have shown us! I've worked with pacific reds (not nec. the valedictorians of the octopus world) and I've been blown away by their problem solving abilities. That is anecdotal obvy but... these will and will always be the most amazing and challenging of all invertebrates for me.

Planning for an unforseen future - totally interesting!! Hopefully much more research will happen with our octopod friends and w/ primates!

By arachnophile (not verified) on 23 Dec 2009 #permalink

Wait. I don't get it. Are those giant coconuts [*giggle*] or mini octopi?

I love how the little guy endlessly tries to hide from the camera man, then finally decides just to attack him instead. Great video!

Come on... tool using aside this is just ONE more amazing thing that our octopod friends have shown us! I've worked with pacific reds (not nec. the valedictorians of the octopus world) and I've been blown away by their problem solving abilities. That is anecdotal obvy but... these will and will always be the most amazing and challenging of all invertebrates for me.