Abdopus aculeatus attack behavior


Haliphron Atlanticus
Staff member
Moderator (Staff)
Mar 17, 2003
It is often difficult to get sharp photographs of octopuses jetting after and/or attacking prey. I got lucky and filmed this small (3 cm mantle length) Abdopus aculeatus attacking a shrimp. The octopus was sitting on a rock, spotted the shrimp, oriented towards it and then jetted after it. Unfortunately the capture was out of frame, but the jetting sequence is O.K.



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These are great!!! That must be one well-fed aculeatus, if it took a bunch of tried to get these shots!

Enlarging these- wow - even all the suckers are in focus.
One intriguing aspect of this is the position of the eyes. Octopuses have a very broad band that is roughly analogous to our "focal point": they can see detail to the left and right without having to turn the eye to focus.

But this one is not seeming to have the target in even peripheral vision. At no point in the sequence does it seem that the octopus can actually be looking at the prey. A jet attack would seem to be too quick for use of scent for precise targeting. Although, with a broad spread of arms, "precise" is perhaps not relevant.

Here, the creature is capable of swiveling its eyes forward, but doesn't in what would seem an obviously useful situation. How common is that?
When the octopus nears the position of the prey, it spreads its arms and either sweeps the area for contact with the prey or "parachutes" down casting its web over a large area. In most of the sequences I have photographed of jetting, the eyes appear "locked" into position. Here is the same animal during another attack.



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Lovely shots. And looking closely at this one, the forward edge of the pupil (and the refractive effects) make me think that perhaps straight forward is visible after all.

In my fictional writings, I have future versions of these creatures turn or swivel an eye to look at something (or someone) in more detail; perhaps it is too much anthropomorphizing.
I wish I would try my hand at fast stills to observe attacks more closely. My impression has always somewhat negated the "known fact" octopuses can clearly focus and are sight hunters. I would not call them sight hunters at all (bearing in mind that I have only kept a few and observations are in aquariums). They seem to detect motion, size and general characteristics enough to see determine prey but will often miss targets and do much more of their hunting and food detection with their arms and suckers than with sight.

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