DAVID GREENE, HOST:
So what does an octopus do with its eight arms? Well, that is a question that's been interesting scientists. Two years ago, Eduardo Sampaio was studying octopuses off the coast of Israel. And he saw something surprising.
EDUARDO SAMPAIO: We saw one of them punch a fish.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
That's right. He saw an octopus curl up a tentacle, then punch a nearby fish.
SAMPAIO: I just laughed out loud, like, underwater, and I almost choked on my regulator.
FADEL: Sampaio is a Ph.D. student at the University of Lisbon. He and a team of scientists worked to record the rare phenomenon.
GREENE: And this month, they have published their findings in the journal Ecology. Sampaio says the movements are just too deliberate to be accidental jabs.
SAMPAIO: You can see that some punches are, like, almost like a small boop. And other ones, even the whole arm curls up and uncurls afterwards, you know, like the motion of a boxer doing a punch.
FADEL: He says there are good reasons an octopus might want to knock some sense into a nearby fish, such as preventing the fish from taking prey away from the octopus.
SAMPAIO: The other possibility is that it could be punishment.
GREENE: Sampaio says this work brings up more questions than it answers, and that includes...
SAMPAIO: Is there a species that the octopus prefers to punch? Or another big question I have - could I take an octopus on in a fight? I'll let you decide.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "OCTOPUS'S GARDEN")
THE BEATLES: (Singing) I'd like to be under the sea in an octopus's garden...
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