Super Shifty Octopus Uses ‘Shoulder Tap’ Technique to Catch Its Prey

It’s no secret that octopuses are some of the smartest creatures in the sea. They’ve been spotted fleeing from aquariums down into drainpipes, transforming themselves in ways no other sea life can, and are generally considered to be magnificent problem solvers. So when you watch the larger Pacific striped octopus use the ol’ “tap you on the shoulder” technique to catch its prey, the one thing you can’t be is surprised. Although the prey definitely is.

The video of the larger Pacific striped octopus pulling its deadly trick was posted by the Berkeley News along with some background information outlining the oddity of the behavior. In the article, Roy Caldwell, a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley, says that he’s never seen anything quite like this. “Octopuses typically pounce on their prey or poke around in holes until they find something,” Caldwell told the Berkeley News, “[but when] this octopus sees a shrimp at a distance, it compresses itself and creeps up, extends an arm up and over the shrimp, touches it on the far side and either catches it or scares it into its other arms.”

In the clip, we see the exact behavior Caldwell describes, with a specimen of the larger Pacific striped octopus very slowly extending out a tentacle toward an unsuspecting shrimp, and then tapping it in order to drive it right into its own deadly grasp.

Larger Pacific striped Octopus looking like it’s thinking about what it wants to eat next. Image: Flickr / Dave Maass

The larger Pacific striped octopus doesn’t only have strange hunting habits, either. This odd little cephalopod is also unique in its social and sexual behaviors. While most species of octopus are generally solitary, the larger Pacific striped octopus has been seen moving around in groups of 40 or more. Most species of octopus also have extraordinary violent mating behaviors — where the male has to keep himself at a distance from the female for fear of being killed and/or eaten — but these little tricksters prefer to get up close and personal during mating, and will even “kiss” their beaks together.

Two larger Pacific octopuses mating. Source: YouTube / ScienceVio

Caldwell also told the Berkeley News that “Only by observing the context in which these behaviors occur in the wild can we begin to piece together how this octopus has evolved behaviors so radically different from what occurs in most other species of octopus.” Which is probably easier said than done when you’re dealing with a creature that’s evolved to utilize the oldest tricks in the book.

What do you think about this tricky octopus? Give us your thoughts in the comments below!

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Images: YouTube / UC Berkeley

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