Octopus tetricus (Mollusca: Cephalopoda) as an ecosystem engineer


  • David Scheel Alaska Pacific University
  • Peter Godfrey-Smith The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Matthew Lawrence




Jervis Bay, social, population density, denning, aggregation


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.


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How to Cite

Scheel D, Godfrey-Smith P, Lawrence M. Octopus tetricus (Mollusca: Cephalopoda) as an ecosystem engineer. Sci. mar. [Internet]. 2014Dec.30 [cited 2024Apr.13];78(4):521-8. Available from: https://scientiamarina.revistas.csic.es/index.php/scientiamarina/article/view/1553