Scientia Marina, Vol 78, No 4 (2014)

Octopus tetricus (Mollusca: Cephalopoda) as an ecosystem engineer

David Scheel
Alaska Pacific University, United States

Peter Godfrey-Smith
The Graduate Center, City University of New York, United States

Matthew Lawrence , Australia


The Sydney octopus (Octopus tetricus) occurs in unusual numbers on a shell bed of its prey remains that have accumulated as an extended midden where additional octopuses excavate dens. Here, O tetricus are ecosystem engineers, organisms that modulate availability of resources to other species and to their own species by causing physical state changes in materials. A community of invertebrate grazers and scavengers has developed on the shell bed. Fishes are attracted to the shell bed in numbers significantly greater than in nearby habitats. Large predators, including wobbegong sharks, were attracted to and fed on concentrations of fish, inhibiting the activities of the original engineers, the octopuses. Positive feedbacks included the accumulation of shell debris, increasing shelter availability for additional octopuses and aggregating fish. Negative feedbacks included reductions of nearby prey size and availability, aggression among octopuses, and predator limitation to octopus activity that would otherwise maintain the shell bed.


Jervis Bay; social; population density; denning; aggregation

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