A video showing an octopus lashing out at a man on a beach last month in Western Australia has gone viral.
Geologist and author Lance Karlson was about go for a swim near the resort where he and his family were staying on March 19 when he spotted what he believed was stingray’s tail striking a seagull, according to Reuters. Upon further inspection, Karlson and his 2-year-old daughter discovered it was an octopus.
He took a video of the creature swimming near him in shallow water before it suddenly launched its arms at him. Then, after setting up his family in a sun protection tent, he put on some goggles and went into the water alone to explore crab shells. Once he was swimming, the octopus found him again and used its arms to lunge at Karlson, who felt a forceful sting across his neck and back.
“My goggles became fogged, the water was suddenly murky and I remember being shocked and confused,” Karlson told the news agency.
He later uploaded the footage on social media and called it the “angriest octopus” in Geographe Bay. “After going after a seagull it then decided my daughter and I deserved a lashing!” he wrote on Instagram. “I later discovered its home amongst a crab graveyard, where it came after me again!”
The octopus left red marks on Karlson’s neck and upper body. But he told Reuters that he felt no animosity toward the animal.
Dr. Jennifer Mather, a professor at the University of Lethbridge who has studied octopuses for decades, saw the viral video and told CBS News on Friday that since the man approached a crab graveyard, it’s clear he got too close to the octopus’ shelter. She said the crab shells were essentially its garbage heap.
“Fish often scavenge the shell remains, and the octopus sometimes aims what we called a ‘slap’ at them,” she said.
Octopuses don’t typically behave this way, according to Mather, considering they’re shy animals.
“It’s very unusual for an octopus to be aggressive like this but they have clear personalities, and you could describe this one as irritable or reactive,” Mather said. “The man was in no danger, the octopus was just warning him off.”