Scientia Marina, Vol 78, No 3 (2014)

Dwellers in dens on sandy bottoms: Ecological and behavioural traits of Octopus vulgaris

Ángel Guerra
Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas, CSIC , Spain

Jorge Hernández-Urcera
Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas, CSIC , Spain

Manuel E. Garci
Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas, CSIC , Spain

Marta Sestelo
Departament de Matemàtiques, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona , Spain

Marcos Regueira
Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas, CSIC , Spain

Ángel F. González
Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas, CSIC , Spain

Miguel Cabanellas-Reboredo
Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (IMEDEA, CSIC-UIB) , Spain

Matías Calvo-Manazza
Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (IMEDEA, CSIC-UIB) , Spain

Beatriz Morales-Nin
Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (IMEDEA, CSIC-UIB) , Spain


Four visual censuses targeting Octopus vulgaris living in dens on sandy bottoms were carried out from June to October 2013 in the National Park of the Atlantic Galician Islands (NW Spain). Censuses were undertaken by scuba diving between 5 and 21 m depth in daytime. The total area swept was 13.75 ha. There were no significant differences between octopus presence in dens during open and closed fishing seasons. Depth had a significant negative relationship with occupancy. The average number of dens per 1000 m2 was 3.84±0.84 in June and 3.89 in October. The area per den was 260 m2. Den number estimations varied between 1586 and 2057. The largest number of dens (76.5%) was found between 5 and 10 m depth. Den distribution was clumped. No significant differences were found between octopus size classes (small, medium and large) and den diameter. Associate dens were observed. There were no significant differences in den diameter and shell types found around the middens. Many dens could be “permanent”. Drilling bivalve shell behaviour is discussed. The surveyed area had around 1100 individuals, mainly small specimens. No significant differences were found between octopus size and depth. Substrate, den type and food abundance and availability (especially razors Ensis arcuatus) seem to be the main factors influencing dens and octopus density and distribution. Den availability does not appear to be a limiting factor in this case. Temperature, den availability, predators and fishing pressure influencing density and distribution are discussed. Rodas inlet may be a preferential habitat for O. vulgaris individuals ranging from 200 to 2000 g, but especially small specimens ( ≤ 1000 g).


den ecology; visual census; habitat selection; drilling behaviour; Octopus vulgaris; National Park of the Atlantic Galician Islands (NW Spain)

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