16 Dec 2009

Octopus builds DIY shelter

9:56 pm on 16 December 2009

An octopus has surprised Australian researchers by using coconut shells for shelter.

Museum Victoria filmed the activities by a veined octopus off the coast of Indonesia.

It picked a coconut shell off the sea bed and scampering off with it under one of its eight arms. The octopus later stuck two together to make a shelter.

This extraordinary behaviour among several of the creatures has led scientists to conclude that they were using a tool in the same way as humans and apes do.

The findings have just been published in the journal Current Biology.

The team says it is the first example of tool use in octopuses.

One of the researchers, Dr Julian Finn from Museum Victoria, told BBC News: "I almost drowned laughing when I saw this the first time."

The veined octopuses Amphioctopus marginatus were filmed between 1999 - 2008 off the coasts of Northern Sulawesi and Bali in Indonesia.

The behaviour was spotted on four occasions with coconuts that had been discarded by humans and had eventually settled in the ocean.

The octopuses were filmed moving up to 20m with the shells.