Assessing Negative Welfare Measures for Wild Invertebrates: The Case for Octopuses

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Michaella P. Andrade, Charles Morphy D. Santos, Mizziara M. M. De Paiva, Sylvia L. S. Medeiros, C. E. O’Brien, Françoise D. Lima, Janaina F. Machado, Tatiana S. Leite
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Welfare metrics have been established for octopuses in the laboratory, but not for octopuses living in the wild. Wild octopuses are constantly exposed to potentially harmful situations, and the ability to assess the welfare status of wild octopuses could provide pertinent information about individuals’ health and species’ resilience to stressors. Here, we used underwater photos and videos to identify injuries and stress-related behaviors in wild Octopus insularis in a variety of contexts, including interacting with fishermen, interacting with other octopuses and fish, proximity to predators, in den, foraging, and in senescence. We adapted established metrics of octopus welfare from the laboratory to these wild octopuses. In addition to observing all of the stress measures, we also identified two previously unknown measures associated with decreased welfare: (1) a half white eye flash and (2) a half-and-half blotch body pattern. More than half of the individuals analyzed had arm loss, and almost half of the individuals had skin injuries. We also observed that irregular chromatophore expression and abnormal motor coordination were associated with interactions with fishermen. This is the first study to apply measures of welfare from the laboratory to wild octopuses. Our results may also aid in the identification of welfare measures for other wild invertebrates.


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