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Previous research has shown that the cephalopods often use trash as tools or take up residence in glass containers and plastic bottles.
But the new study observed that an increasing number of octopus species have been using the discarded materials as shelters, camouflage and even places to lay their eggs.
A research team examined more than 260 images and videos of the creatures using marine waste. They wrote that a total of 24 different octopus species were seen sheltering in broken glass bottles, soda cans and old batteries.
“It’s becoming so common that they’re using these items to protect themselves instead of their natural shelters, such as seashells, which are becoming scarce in the ocean,” study author Maira Proietti told CBC.
Their findings showed that 40 percent of the interactions occurred with glass objects and 25 percent with plastic items. The team also observed that a majority of these interactions occurred between 2018 and 2021, which could indicate an increase in underwater photography – or worsening ocean pollution.
While the results point to a serious problem, other scientists cautioned that the study lacks a control subject to understand how other marine life interact with trash.
Even so, researchers explained that the study can help find ways to “prevent and mitigate the impacts of litter on octopuses and identify knowledge gaps that require attention.”