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December 16, 2009

Mobile Home for an Octopus

Tool usage was once considered to be one of the key features separating us from other animals. However, recently we have discovered that most primates, some birds, and a few other mammals use tools as well. And now, for the first time, we have found an invertebrate using tools. The best way to describe this is simply to watch:

These octopi, Amphioctopus marginatus, are using the coconut shells are a protective home. Now, you might think that this is similar to what hermit crabs do. After all, they are also an invertebrate which uses discarded shells to protect themselves. However, a hermit crab's shell is more like a hat for us: just put it on and forget about it. The coconut shells of these octopi are much different. As you could see in the video above, the creatures hold the shells under their bodies and "run" along the sea floor. They also go through an elaborate process to put two coconut halves together, completely encasing themselves. Far more effort than simply putting on a shell and forgetting about it.

The adaptations that life on this planet have come up with are pretty incredible. We've just scratched the surface in learning about our fellow creatures on this planet. More research is certain to reveal even more amazing behaviors.

For more information, visit National Geographic.