I Wish I Were A Female Octopus Because Apparently, They Throw Objects At Males Who Harass Them

Time and time again, nature has proved to us that in the “circle of life,” nature is ruthless and sometimes unfair. But just as men sometimes don’t take the hint to leave women alone, apparently, male octopuses are the exact same way.

A new study out of Australia is shedding light on how female octopuses get revenge on males who harass them, and they’re about to become your new feminist icons.

Much Ado About Octopuses

Tiny octopus sits on a person's hand near the surface of blue-green water
Photo Credit: Alessandro Canepa / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Alessandro Canepa / Unsplash

From Ursula in The Little Mermaid to myths of a giant sea monster called the kraken, pop culture is filled with octopuses. But what do we know about our aquatic friends? First and foremost, octopuses are smart. They have the largest brains out of all invertebrates, and can problem-solve, find their way through mazes, squeeze in and out of tight crevices, and are even capable of playing.

Not only do they use their tentacles to explore the world around them and manipulate objects, but they’re also masters of disguise.

The Study

Jervis Bay, in New South Wales, Australia
Photo Credit: Steve Christo / Corbis via Getty Images
Photo Credit: Steve Christo / Corbis via Getty Images

The study, titled “In the Line of Fire: Debris Throwing by Wild Octopuses,” was recently published in bioRxiv and was conducted by Australian, American, and Canadian researchers.

Beginning in 2015 and over the course of several years, researchers observed male and female octopuses of one particular species, Octopus tetricus, in Jervis Bay, Australia, which is a place they’re known to congregate in large numbers. The data was gathered via video cameras.

Throwing Shade

Reddish-pink octopus holds up one tentacle
Photo Credit: Sigmund / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Sigmund / Unsplash

Researchers found that female octopuses, far more often than their male counterparts, propelled objects through the water by “releasing these materials from their arms while creating a forceful jet from the siphon held under [their] arm web.”

In other words, female octopuses are capable of throwing various objects, and sometimes, their target is other octopuses.

In The Line Of Fire

Large cluster of seashells
Photo Credit: George Girnas / Unsplash
Photo Credit: George Girnas / Unsplash

Researchers identified three main reasons why octopuses threw objects: First, they were discarding the remains of a meal they’d just consumed. Second, they were rearranging and maintaining their dens, and thirdly, “social” throws were done within two minutes of interacting with another octopus.

So what exactly do they love to throw? Their favorite weapons are shells, silt, and algae.

Right On Target

Octopus plushy toys, including a red one with an angry face
Photo Credit: Mahdi Bafande / Unsplash
Photo Credit: Mahdi Bafande / Unsplash

Female octopuses apparently have a great curveball, but why are they resorting to violence? Simple, they are trying to ward off unwanted sexual advances from male octopuses. Interestingly, the males never return fire, and sometimes they even avoid the throws by ducking.

In one instance, a “single female threw material 10 times, with 5 of these hitting a male in an adjacent den, who attempted several times to mate with her.” God, take the hint already!

In Conclusion

A person's hand reaches for a smiling orange octopus toy
Photo Credit: cottonbro / Pexels
Photo Credit: cottonbro / Pexels

The study concludes that octopuses are “added to the shortlist of animals who regularly throw or propel objects, and…of those who direct their throws on other animals.”

Just as women loathe being harassed by men and some guys just don’t know how to take “No” for an answer, the same can be said for our eight-tentacled sisters. Whether you’re a man or an octopus, keep your hands (and tentacles) to yourself!