Octopus Pops Out of Shell, Jumps Off Fishing Boat Like a Ninja

A group of Japanese anglers was surprised to find that a shellfish they caught during a fishing trip was inhabited by an unlikely, eight-armed dweller.

The bizarre yet fascinating moment took place somewhere off Japan’s Suruga Bay in the Shizuoka Prefecture, reported TV Asashi. The octopus was found taking refuge in a clam shell, after which it pushed the shell open using its tentacles to make its escape. It didn’t remain on board for long as it jumped back into the ocean, as swift as a ninja.

The video that captured the speedy escape was posted to Twitter on July 7. It has been retweeted 66,000 times and has gained 200,000 likes and 5,700,000 views at the time of writing.

“[This happened] immediately after I thought I caught a shellfish,” said Miura Ai, a Shizuoka-based angler, whose voice can be heard in the video. “I apologize if I was being too loud.”

Without any hard protective shell on the outside of their soft body, an octopus will squeeze itself into any confined space avoid predators. This natural instinct has been taken advantage of for centuries by local fishermen, who use a traditional fishing device called an octopus pot” to lure and snatch these seabed crawlers.

In 2009, a video that captured the intriguing behavior of an octopus went viral when it emerged on the internet. The footage showed an octopus walking along the ocean floor carrying two halves of a broken coconut shell beneath his arms.

The octopus was captured on camera clasping two halves of a coconut closed to hide itself in the protective orb. The mollusc then proceeded to use the coconut shell like a vehicle, rolling itself around inside the closed shell.

This behavior has been known to marine life experts for a while. Researchers witnessed four similar instances of octopuses using coconuts over the course of filming the Amphioctopus marginatus, also known as the veined octopus, between 1999 and 2008, the BBC reported.

Some biologists believe it proves that octopuses are capable of using tools, according to National Geographic. For a long time, scientists thought that tool use was unique to humans, but ongoing research has confirmed that some animals do it too.

Not everyone is convinced, though. “If you’re going to say [the coconut-carrying octopus is] tool use, then anything that carries or uses another object for protection would then be using tools,” marine biologist James Wood told National Geographic. “You have to draw the line somewhere.”

“A tool is something an animal carries around and then uses on a particular occasion for a particular purpose,” Tom Tregenza, a professor at University of Exeter, told BBC. “While the octopus carries the coconut around, there is no use to it—no more use than an umbrella is to you when you have it folded up and you are carrying it about. The umbrella only becomes useful when you lift it above your head and open it up.”

“And just in the same way, the coconut becomes useful to this octopus when it stops and turns it the other way up and climbs inside it.”

Regardless of the ongoing debate, scientists agree that octopuses are one of the most complex and intelligent animals in the ocean.