Portuguese Man o’ War: An Octopus’s Ultimate Weapon?

by Carolyn Sotka


An octopus holding what appears to be Portuguese man o’ war tentacles. Photo: Joshua Lambas

We know that octopuses are really smart but this takes it to a whole new level. Joshua Lambas, a ‘black water’ photographer captured an octopus using the severed tentacles of a Portuguese man o’ war possibly for defense.

In the September 30th issue of Scientific American, Lambas explains this very rare behavior, After the first flash of my strobes it unfurled its tentacles, changed colors and presented the man o’ war tentacles you see in the photo… It took me many years to track down someone that knew what the species was, as it had not been seen many times before. It is very likely that it is using the tentacles as a defense against predators”.

Octopuses are known to be one of the smartest invertebrates with an ability to maintain short and long-term memory. They use many strategies for defense including jet propulsion escape, ink sprays, camouflage and an ability to squeeze into tight spaces and hide. All are venomous but apparently 4 pairs of arms aren’t enough for some… and in this case, possibly finding a new weapon to use.

Here is the full Scientific American article that features Joshua’s work.

Check out Joshua Lambus’ very cool ‘black water’ photography gallery. His photos are taken way offshore of Hawaii and  a glimpse into the thousands of deep-sea species that migrate nightly to the surface to feed. Some of which have often never been seen before, let alone identified.

Here is bonus video an a boat escape that highlights octopuses lack of internal or external skeleton.

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