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Why did the octopus punch the fish? The answer, sometimes, is “out of spite.” In 2020, a video of an octopus sucker-punching a fish made the rounds on social media. The clip stems from a study documenting the commensal relationship between octopuses and fish in the Mediterranean. An octopus and a group of fishes from as many as five different species sometimes band together to form a hunting party, with octopuses gleaning tasty mollusks and crustaceans hiding in the crannies between rocks, and fish gobbling up whatever ventures into the water column. Sometimes the partnership goes south, though, and if the octopus and fish are eyeing the same morsel of prey, the octopus might get its way with a mean right hook. On occasion, the octopus will deliver a wanton whack, seemingly without reason.
In a new study, researchers took a closer look at the biomechanics of an octopus punch. By observing 19 different slaps from an octopus in Okinawa, Japan, the researchers defined the specific motions octopuses employ in a jab. For any octopuses out there looking to stick it to a pesky fish, here’s a guide on how to deliver the primo punch.