Animal IQ

There's a City of Octopuses Off the Coast of Australia

There's an ancient saying that's been passed down for generations:

"Under the sea, under the sea

Darling, it's better down where it's wetter

Take it from me"

Finally, we have proof that this legend is true. As long as you're an octopus. And you're living in the octopus city of Octlantis.

Take Me Down to Octopus City

As if having "common" in its name isn't disheartening enough, the common Sydney octopus goes by another, even more melancholy handle: the gloomy octopus. So maybe it's not too surprising that these undersea underdogs tend to prefer a solitary lifestyle. But with the discovery of Octlantis, we've come to learn that even gloomy octopuses can get along sometimes.

Emphasis on "sometimes". Make no mistake — the streets of Octlantis are mean. The Octlantians have a nasty habit of muscling in on each others' territory, and chasing each other out of their respective hidey-holes just because. And then there are the sharks, who are naturally drawn to the octopus buffet.

But when we say "city", we mean "city". Octlantians build their own structures from their leftovers, the shells of clams and scallops. They build fences to keep out their neighbors and protect themselves from the underwater elements under shell-tiled roofs. We're picturing little octopus skyscrapers getting erected while "Powerhouse" plays in the background. Okay, maybe we're getting a little carried away, but seriously, how have they not set a cartoon musical in this place yet?

Eight-legged dance numbers aside, what do the octopuses actually get out of living together? Doing so attracts predators and they all seem to hate each other anyway. The answer might lie in ' sister city, Octopolis.

For Cephalopod and Country

Octlantis isn't actually the first octopus city that researchers have discovered. But it helped fill in a clue about what leads the tentacled denizens to form their thriving cities. Octopolis was discovered in 2009, and was believed to be an anomaly — researchers thought that the little cephalopods only gathered there because some human objects had settled in the area. They assumed that the octopuses were just curious about the alien structures.

But  didn't have any human objects to attract that kind of attention. What it did have, however, was a lot of little rock outcroppings on the sea floor, dotting the otherwise flat and featureless area. So it's most likely that the octopuses are responding to an abundance of comfy hiding spots. So while it's certainly true that gloomy octopuses prefer a lonely life, it's probably also true that the colonies are more common than we previously thought.

Scientists Discover a Never-Before-Seen Octopus City

Written by Reuben Westmaas October 10, 2017

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