Monday, September 26, 2016

Octopus Population Boom: ‘Brainy’ Invertebrates Now Dominate Oceans

Octopus Population Boom: ‘Brainy’ Invertebrates Now Dominate Oceans

www.eurekalert.org

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Despite the man-made destruction of many marine lives, researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia reveal that cephalopods are thriving. The findings, published on May 23 in the journal Current Biology, show that cephalopods, a group of marine animals that include octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish, have been increasing over the last 60 years.

The researchers point out that cephalopods must have adapted more quickly compared to other marine animals mainly because of their fast growth development, shorter lifespan, and sensitive physiologies. The increase of the species’ populations can have positive consequences to people as well as other animals that rely on them for food including marine predators.

“The consistency was the biggest surprise,” adds Zoë Doubleday, a researcher from Australia’s Environment Institute at the University of Adelaide. “Cephalopods are notoriously variable, and population abundance can fluctuate wildly, both within and among species. The fact that we observed consistent, long-term increases in three diverse groups of cephalopods, which inhabit everything from rock pools to open oceans, is remarkable.”

octopuses
This is a photograph of giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama), Spencer Gulf, South Australia. Photo by wildlife photographer Scott Portelli.

The research team analysed the population trends of cephalopods based on the catch rates that occurred between 1953 through 2013. About 35 species of cephalopods from all over the world were included in the data.

Still, despite the current increase in cephalopods, the researchers assert that they cannot specify what could happen to the species in the coming years. As of now, the team is studying the factors that contributed to the animals’ population increase. “It is a difficult, but important, question to answer,” adds Doubleday. “It may tell us an even bigger story about how human activities are changing the ocean.”

The increase of cephalopod populations can have ecological and socio-economic effects, all of which are still not clear for now.  Nevertheless, the team believes that the consequences can be complex, hence, further analysis is required.