Dozens of Octopuses Wash Ashore in Strange Case of Mass Akrasia

Self preservation is one of those fundamental instincts that’s taken for granted, which is why it’s so odd when a large group of marine creatures wash ashore only to bring on their early demise. The latest example of this strange behavior was recently seen in West Wales, when a group of more than two dozen apparently healthy octopuses was found washed ashore, moving in the wrong direction, away from existing.

The Washington Post picked up the story of the strange cephalopod behavior, which was spotted by Brett Stones, the man in charge of SeaMôr Dolphin Watching Boat Trips in New Quay beach in Cardigan Bay. Stones told BBC News that “There were probably about 20 or 25 on the beach,” and that “It was a bit like an end of days scenario.”

Stones said he first saw the curled octopuses (Eledone cirrhosa) washed ashore at night as he was returning from a tour. He wrote in a Facebook post commenting on the event that he and others took the ones that were the least submerged in water, carried them back to the end of the pier, and plopped them back into the ocean with the hopes that they would be able to swim back to safety. Unfortunately, it seems that many of the octopuses did not end up making it, and Stones himself found several of them dead in the sand in the morning.

Somebody from SeaMôr Dolphin Watching Boat Trips has commented on Facebook that one possible explanation could be that this is simply the result of the end of breeding season. Populations of curled octopuses do indeed hit their lowest density levels in autumn due to a normal post-spawning die off, which sort of squares this whole phenomenon away. Except Stones, who presumably knows quite a bit about the area and sea life in general, also told BBC News that he had “never seen them out of the water like that.”

What do you think caused this group of curled octopuses to wash ashore? Was it just the end of spawning season, or does this kind of behavior require some more aquatic sleuthing? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!

Images:  SeaMor Dolphin Watching Boat Trips

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