In the briny waters of Jervis Bay on Australia’s east coast, where three rocky outcrops jut out from piles of broken scallop shells, beer bottles, and lead fishing lures, a clutch of octopuses gambol among a warren of nearly two dozen dens. Welcome to Octlantis.
The bustling community belies conventionally held notions of the cephalopods, once thought to be solitary and asocial.
Indeed, Octopus tetricus, known colloquially as the gloomy octopus, has always been framed as a bit of a loner, with males and females only meeting once a year to mate.
Even then, there’s barely any touching. To avoid being throttled and eaten by a hungry female, the male octopus uses a specialized arm to jettison packets of sperm called spermatophores into the giant bulb behind the female’s head, also known as the mantle.
In the site they have christened Octlantis, however, an international team of marine biologists led by Alaska Pacific University’s David Scheel observed “complex social interactions” among 10 to 15 octopuses as they foraged, mated, and fought in close quarters on eight different days.