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Dolphins Beat Up, Incapacitate Octopuses Before Eating Them -- Or Else They Die

Apr 04, 2017 10:23 AM EDT
Dolphins are intelligent and playful animals. They are generally friendly and live in social groups that could span to hundreds.
(Photo : Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Dolphins are known for being incredibly happy, intelligent creatures. They're also survivors in the tough world of the ocean where almost everything is preyed on and eaten. In this case, even a dead octopus poses a serious threat of leaving its predator -- specifically, dolphins -- dead.

According to a report from Popular Science, a team of researchers from the Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit in Australia led by Kate Sprogis observed the behavior of dolphins in Western Australia, discovering the brutal way it kills octopuses for food.

Octopus arms -- all eight of them -- are still very threatening even after being separated from their body. Because the octopus' central nervous system isn't centralized like that of a human being, some of the neurons are in its arms and they can still try to escape even after being detached from the rest of the octopus' body. Some creatures end up asphyxiated from ignoring this unique octopus trait.

However, dolphins figured out a way to survive the thrashing attacks of octopuses' eight legs, and that's to completely subdue the animal before eating it.

The friendly mammals employ two basic tactics to kill their meal. The first is to swim out of the water with the octopus in their mouths, then slam the prey back down to tear its body apart.

Another technique is moving their heads to the side with the same effect of slamming the octopus down and incapacitating them. These ingenious methods of the dolphins highlight the intelligence of the species.

"Everyone relates it to seafood preparation," Sprogis told the BBC News. "They've got skills to prepare their meal."

"They bite off the head first then they shake and toss the rest of the body. They have to do this because they are such large octopus they can't just swallow them in one piece," she added.

The findings were published on a paper in the journal Marine Mammal Science.

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