Most of us think of the Octopus as an eight-legged mollusk that spends its days wriggling around with its snake-like arms. However, not only does this intelligent animal have a razor-sharp memory, it has also, been known to maneuver through mazes and even try escape from tanks.
But, it is the animal's demonstration of 'tool use' that has impressed scientists the most - enabling it to become the first invertebrate to join the elite club of less than 20 animals that includes elephants, chimpanzees and crows, with similar skills.
The interesting discovery was made by a team of researchers led by Melbourne-based biologist Julian Finn. They performed more than 500 dives between 1998 and 2008 off the islands of Northern Sulawesiand Bali, Indonesia to observe the behavior of twenty Veined Octopuses. What they discovered was fascinating.
The eight-legged creatures would actively search the seabed for discarded coconut shells that were bigger than their 3-inch wide bodies. Once they were able to discover one, they would use it to hide, whenever they perceived a threat. While most settled for one, some created a bigger space, by placing one over the other, not only building a nice secure home, but also, a lookout point for predators.
While this in itself was astonishing, what was even more surprising, is what happened after the threat was gone - Instead of leaving the shells behind, the octopus would drape its eight tentacles over the hollow part, make them taut, and then awkwardly 'walk' around the seabed, carrying its 'home and armor' with it!
This habit of lugging their shells for future use and the fact that they could actually assemble two halves into a shelter to protect themselves, is what the scientists categorize as evidence of 'tool' use - Something only animals with sophisticated brains are able to do.
Mr. Finn is quite certain that this is not new behavior and that the eight-legged creatures have been using mollusk remains for quite a few years. However, the use of lighter and therefore more mobile coconut shells, seems to be fairly recent.
Julian said it was extremely hilarious to watch, and that he and his team, often ended up flooding their scuba masks, because they could not stop laughing!
Of course, as is normally the case, not all scientists believe that this demonstrates real 'tool' use. Whether it does or not, it definitely shows how intelligent these animals are - Don't you agree?
sources: nationalgeographic.com, whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com, newsscientist.com