Why Did Octopuses Beach Themselves In Mass, Alarming Numbers?

Octopuses are some of the most fascinating and intelligent creatures on Earth. With their alien looks and inquisitive nature they've inspired all kinds of mystical stories, legends, art, and scientific query. But lately, some octopus-lovers have been worried about an unusual phenomenon involving these cephalopods that seems straight out of a sci-fi movie.

Although many species of octopus can survive for limited times on land, octopuses beaching themselves is not common. But a massive octopus beaching in Wales has got scientists scratching their heads, and some people believe that there must be something terrible wrong. No one knows exactly why this is happening, but experts have put forward a number of hypothesis to explain this strange situation. This isn't the only case of animals mysteriously dying en masse, but it is the latest to bring concern to environmentalists everywhere.

The great octopus beaching remains an enigma, but scientists are hoping that it is a contained incident. For now, the focus should be to find out why these octopuses are doing this and figure out a way to prevent further beachings.

  • 25 Curled Octopuses Crawled Onto A Beach In Wales

    25 Curled Octopuses Crawled Onto A Beach In Wales
    Photo: Ecomare/Oscar Bos / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    In the quiet beachside town of New Quay, Wales, a tour guide made a disturbing discovery. Brett Stones had been out at sea conducting a dolphin spotting tour and came back to shore to find the beach covered in octopuses. According to his testimony, Stones found as many as 25 curled octopuses crawling around the beach. The curled octopus, whose scientific name is Eledone cirrhosa, is not known for coming ashore. The whole situation seemed "like an end of days scenario," according to Stones.

  • The Curled Octopus Usually Stays Far From The Surface

    While it's true that some octopuses can survive for a time outside of the water, it is extremely rare to find a curled octopus sunbathing on the beach. These octopuses are known to prefer deeper waters and are usually found about 100 meters below the surface. This species spends most of its life on the hunt for fish, arthropods, and other deep water invertebrates. They can be found throughout the North Atlantic and are particularly common around the British Isles.

  • None Of The Octopuses Showed Signs Of Sickness Or Injury

    None Of The Octopuses Showed Signs Of Sickness Or Injury
    Photo: Ecomare/Oscar Bos / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Perhaps the most strange thing about this whole ordeal is that there were no signs that the octopuses were suffering in any way other than the beaching itself. In fact, the creatures seemed quite healthy to the people who attempted to save them. "Every one we found was quite alive. Their tentacles were coming around and grabbing hold," reported the tour guide Brett Stones. The animals seemed energetic and lively, which only worked to further confuse the marine biologists hoping to crack this bizarre case.

  • Experts Still Don't Really Know What Is Going On

    When it comes to wild animals, sometimes the experts are just as confused as the rest of us. So far, there has been no definitive explanation for why these healthy octopuses decided to strand themselves on land. Everyone has chimed in with a solution, from experts in marine biology to the tour guide who discovered the animals in the first place. No physical tests were done on the octopuses, so it's impossible to know for sure if the beaching was the cause of some sort of disease or if it was a completely external factor.

  • The Best Guess Is That It Might Be Weather-Related

    The Best Guess Is That It Might Be Weather-Related
    Photo: NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    So far, the most convincing hypothesis has to do with anomalous weather patterns. A pair of tropical storms, Ophelia and Brian, managed to create some bizarre pressure conditions after striking the British Isles. These low pressure zones could be disturbing the octopuses in some way, causing them to flee toward the shore. It is also possible that the storms could have injured the octopuses in some way, although it does not seem like any of the octopuses carried external injuries. 

  • An Octopus Population Boom Could Also Be The Cause

    The number of curled octopuses off the coast of the United Kingdom may be putting some new pressures on the species. Mass fishing of cod, a competitor and possible predator, has allowed the octopus population to bloom in recent years. It is possible that there are simply too many octopuses to sustain the population, so many are being driven out of their territory. The curled octopus is known for being a solitary creature that doesn't organize into social groups, so it is possible that increased competition is the reason for their exile.