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Heartbreaking Photos Taken At The Bottom Of The Ocean

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Heartbreaking Photos Taken At The Bottom Of The Ocean

A new study examining photos taken at the bottom of the ocean shows how octopuses are increasingly using discarded rubbish as shelter. 

The research, which was published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, documented 24 species of octopus altogether, exploring how the creatures used glass bottles, cans and even an old battery either to shelter themselves or as a safe place to keep their eggs. 

The authors said in their abstract how octopuses have been widely documented using artificial shelters for decades, but that ‘this use is apparently increasing’. 

“Despite any possible positive effects, the use of litter as shelter could have negative implications,” they wrote. 

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Credit: Federal University of Rio Grande/A-B: John Paul Meillon; C: Serge Abourjeily; D: Claudio Sampaio; E: Caio Salles; F-G: Edmar Bastos; H: Marco Panico; I: Federico Betti
Credit: Federal University of Rio Grande/A-B: John Paul Meillon; C: Serge Abourjeily; D: Claudio Sampaio; E: Caio Salles; F-G: Edmar Bastos; H: Marco Panico; I: Federico Betti

After looking at 261 underwater images – with contributions from research institutions and sourced from social media with permission – the team identified ‘8 genera and 24 species of benthic octopuses interacting with litter’. 

Glass objects were present in 41.6 percent of interactions, and plastic in 24.7 percent, while researchers found Asia presented the highest number of images in the study. 

“This information is fundamental to help prevent and mitigate the impacts of litter on octopuses, and identify knowledge gaps that require attention,” they said. 

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Research supervisor Maira Proietti, professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande in Brazil, said: “The deep-sea records were extremely interesting, because even at great depths these animals are interacting with the litter.  

Credit: Federal University of Rio Grande/Edmar Bastos
Credit: Federal University of Rio Grande/Edmar Bastos

“They clearly see that there’s a lot of litter around, and it can therefore act as a kind of artificial camouflage. 

“It shows their extreme ability to adapt. They are very intelligent animals, and they will use what they have at their disposal to continue sheltering or walking around with protection.”

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The most common interaction recorded in the study was the use of rubbish as a shelter. 

The research also found that the octopuses appeared to show a preference for unbroken items, along with darker or opaque containers. 

The most common interaction recorded in the study was the use of rubbish as a shelter. 

Credit: Federal University of Rio Grande/Serge Abourjeily
Credit: Federal University of Rio Grande/Serge Abourjeily
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Prioetti added: “While these interactions could seem positive for the animals because they are lacking natural shelters such as seashells, it is not a good thing to think that the animals may be using litter as shelter because the seashells are gone.” 

The team believes that more research is needed to fully investigate the impact of octopuses using human rubbish.

“It is possible that the negative impacts of litter on octopuses is underestimated due to the lack of available data, and we, therefore, emphasize that the problem must be more thoroughly assessed,” they wrote.

Featured Image Credit: Federal University of Rio Grande/Serge Abourjeily

Topics: Animals, World News, Environment

Jess Hardiman
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