Octopus Filmed Randomly Punching Fish ‘Out Of Spite’ While Hunting

by : Emily Brown on : 23 Dec 2020 08:21
Octopus Filmed Randomly Punching Fish ‘Out Of Spite’ While HuntingEduardo Sampaio/Twitter

Have you ever come across someone and had the inexplicable urge to punch them?

I’m not saying it’s a nice reaction to have, and I’m certainly not suggesting you act on it, but whether it’s a famous person spouting controversial claims or an acquaintance you’d like really like to distance yourself from, sometimes that urge just can’t be helped.


Apparently octopuses have that urge too, though they’re not so good at controlling it. In a paper published in the journal Ecology, Researchers from the University of Lisbon found that the creatures hit out at fish when hunting alongside one another.

Check out footage of the bizarre behaviour below:

Biologist Eduardo Sampaio shared the revelation on Twitter, expressing his excitement about the discovery as he wrote: ‘Octopuses punch fishes. YES. OCTOPUSES. PUNCH. FISHES!!’


Sampaio, a researcher at the Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre, explained that octopuses and fish are known to hunt together so they can take advantage ‘of the other’s morphology and hunting strategy’.

Though it may seem nonsensical to punch your partner in the face, the researcher pointed out that multiple creatures join in the hunt, creating a ‘complex network where investment and pay-off can be unbalanced, giving rise to partner control mechanisms’.

In this case ‘partner control mechanisms’ equates to a fish being punched.


The researchers discovered that the punches, or ‘directed explosive arm movements’, occur in different contexts. Most of the time the octopuses appeared to have a reason to hit the fish, for example to keep it away from prey, keep an unruly fish in line or to get rid of a fish that isn’t contributing to the hunt.

There were, however, a couple of instances when the octopuses seemingly had no real reason to hit the fish, leading the team to suggest that ‘punching is a spiteful behaviour, used to impose a cost on the fish’.

The researchers also suggested that the punching may just be a ‘form of aggression’ against a misbehaving fish.


The team filmed off the coast of El Qusier, Egypt, and Eilat, Israel, between 2018 and 2019, where they saw numerous different octopuses punch fish.

There wasn’t a specific type of fish that got octopuses riled up, as they witnessed the ‘explosive arm movements’ against tailspot squirrelfish, blacktip and lyretail groupers and yellow-saddle, indicating that ‘punching serves a concrete purpose in interspecific interactions’.

The team plan to conduct further research to help understand exactly why the octopuses seem to have it in for the fish.

If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]

Most Read StoriesMost Read


The Queen Has Been Told To Stop Drinking

Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Animals, fish, Marine Life, Now


Ecology and 1 other
  1. Ecology

    Octopuses punch fishes during collaborative interspecific hunting events

  2. Eduardo Sampaio/Twitter