December 15, 2009 / 9:23 PM / 9 years ago

Coconut shell shelter for "smart" octopus: research

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Australian scientists have discovery an octopus species that carries around coconut shells to hide in when threatened, behavior the researchers said was the first example of sophisticated tool use in an invertebrate.

Biologists Julian Finn and Mark Norman spent almost 10 years diving off the coasts of Northen Sulawesi and Bali in Indonesia, studying more than 20 specimens of the Veined Octopus.

The octopuses were found to occupy empty seashells, discarded coconut shell halves or manmade objects, and on several dives, the researchers saw them carrying coconut shell halves below their body and swimming away with them.

Sometimes, an octopus would carry two shell halves and then put them together to form a shelter, the scientists said.

“We were actually in Indonesia in North Sulawesi, looking for the Mimic Octopus when we chanced across this octopus, known as the Veined Octopus doing amazing behavior,” Finn told Australian media.

“Using tools is something we think is very special about humans, but it also exists in other animal groups we’ve never considered before, a low life form, a relative of a snail. These octopuses, they’re not simple animals,” added Norman.

The biologists’ research was published in the recent edition of Current Biology journal.

Writing by Miral Fahmy, editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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