It was previously thought that cephalopods usually use their abilities to camouflage themselves from predators. But a scuba diver has notified scientists and marine biologists that the octopuses’ ability to change colors is used in social interactions as well, after seeing two male subjects “talk” to one another.
After this initial sighting was made, several parties have started to conduct thorough inquiries on the subject, installing GoPro cameras on the Jervis Bay sea-bed in Australia. Over 50 hours of footage was captured, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that this analysis was easy to make. Without having the capability of discerning between specimens, given the fact that octopuses can change shape and color in the blink of an eye, teams were somewhat incapable of keeping track of only one subject throughout the period.
Even so, the research teams were still able to conclude that their natural camouflaging abilities were also used as a means of rudimentary communications between these cephalopods. Around 186 interactions between two subjects were filmed, accompanied by various behaviors. Depending on the nature of the engagement, octopuses could “stand tall” by raising their body on their tentacles, could go dark or pale, throw shells or other debris at each other or simply poke one another.
The main type of interaction was through the use of color change, an ability given by the octopuses’ capability to contract and relax chromatophores residing on their skin. If a darker octopus approached a paler one, the latter party would retreat. But if the pale one switches to an even darker color, counter-attacking the intruder, the fight could potentially escalate. The octopuses’ posture during these interactions is called the “Nosferatu pose”, with the animals raising their webs like a dark cape, just like Dracula, if the vampire had eight limbs, an enlarged head and the ability to breathe underwater.
The reasons why these “heated” interactions occur are still relatively unknown, due to the fact that octopuses are usually solitary creatures. The interactions were commonly made between two males, making scientists believe that these disputes were over territory, but they were not only limited to male-to-male conversations, some females getting the same treatments.
Seeing how octopuses’ ability to change colors is used in social interactions, it seems that these creatures are actually smarter than we originally thought because we do not necessarily know what they’re actually conversing about. Who knows, even if it’s highly unlikely, octopuses could actually be talking about the state of the current underwater weather or about their previous meals.