O. fitchi and P. digueti inhabit the tidal and subtidal waters off the coast of La Paz, Mexico, and surrounding area. The two species are small benthic octopods (Cephalopoda) that have life histories that may be relatively unique in this branch of Cephalopoda. Octopus’s are thought to be nearly exclusively asocial but as they are both shell dwellers, meaning they seek refuge in dead clams, this resource may be under intense competition and encourages social interactions rarely seen in octopuses. This life history trait may be somewhat similar to that seen in hermit crabs which also use abandoned mollusk shells as refuges, which could be constantly fought over and would provide an interesting comparative approach to intraspecific resource competition, a fundamental area of behavioural ecology.
These octopuses have short lifespans (~12 months) and are therefore potentially ideal laboratory models, many generations can be reared and experimentally investigated in a relatively short amount of time. Cephalopods are notoriously difficult to track in the wild, due to the difficulty of inserting and maintain physical tags in and or on their very soft bodies. Using the refuge bivalve shell as a proxy to marking the animal provides a unique opportunity to follow the octopuses over the month we are out there.
Originally posted on National Geographic Open Explorer to shelldwellingoctopuses.