African Journal of Marine Science

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Short Communication

Behavioural observations of the common octopus Octopus vulgaris in Baía dos Tigres, southern Angola

CL de Beer, WM Potts


Observations on the behaviour of the common octopus Octopus vulgaris were made during daytime and night-time sampling on an unexploited rocky reef habitat in Baía dos Tigres, southern Angola. The relative numerical abundance sampled was 0.47 octopus person–1 h–1 during the day and 5.33 octopus person–1 h–1 during the night, suggesting that the population under study was nocturnal. The activity patterns differed between sizes of octopus. Small octopus (<20 cm total length [TL]) were observed roaming during the night, whereas the large individuals (>20 cm TL) generally fed in their dens. This ontogenetic behavioural shift may be due to tidal constraints or could be a strategy to avoid cannibalism. Octopus inhabiting a shallow, small-boulder substratum made extensive modifications to their habitat, excavating dens of up to 1 m deep in the sand below the boulders. These dens were not visible during the day as the octopus appeared to retract the small boulders over their den entrances. This unique behavioural strategy is thought to be a means to reduce predation and reduce light intensity during the day. Octopus were not observed in the small-boulder habitat during the five hours of daytime sampling. With nocturnal activity and extensive habitat modification, it is likely that avoidance of predation may be an important driver influencing the behaviour of the octopus population under study.

Keywords: activity patterns, cephalopod, den ecology, habitat modification

African Journal of Marine Science 2013, 35(4): 579–583
AJOL African Journals Online