Scientists observe octopuses punching fish proving 2020 is tough all over

No one likes a bully who punches for no reason. In the human world, we tend to avoid that type of person, and as it turns, the aquatic world also has its share of bullies. Scientists recently published a study where they observed octopuses punching fish. The most interesting part of the octopus' aggressive behavior is that there appeared to be no other reason than spite in some cases.

Scientists call the fish-punching skills of the octopus "active displacement" of fish and say it typically occurs during collaborative hunting efforts. Fish and octopus often team to chase and trap prayed together. Perhaps the punching has to do with the octopus wanting to pray for itself.

Marine biologist Eduardo Sampaio says that octopuses and fish are known to hunt together, enabling them to take advantage of the other's morphology and hunting strategies. Often multiple hunting partners join the hunt creating a complicated network where investment and payoff is at times unbalanced, which gives rise to "partner control mechanisms." In this instance, that control mechanism is the octopus punching the fish.

The action is the octopuses' way of establishing a sense of control and dominance during a hunting party. In this particular instance, the octopus performs a swift and explosive motion with one arm directed at a specific fish the researchers refer to as punching. The specific breed of octopus seen in the tweet below is Octopus cyanea.

The researchers note that the punching strategy has been observed in different octopuses and in different locations suggesting that the action serves a concrete purpose during interspecific interactions. Researchers on the project believe the punching is designed to keep fish in line during hunts and is used to both deter them from pray and relocate their position in the pack or remove them from the hunt altogether. However, the scientists did observe an octopus during the study punching a fish when it didn't appear to be related to a hunt.