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This is tied to my previous question!: How to allow a sentient cephalopod to live a long lifespan?

An intelligent aquatic cephalopod with adults having roughly 15-40 cm long mantle. They typically live in shallow waters in coral reefs, and can breath air like lungfish. They are eusocial and highly cooperative, typically moves in swarms, but they are carnivorous. Their technology can roughly be compared to the bronze age in the human world, and they are in the guadalupian period.

Because of their small size and lack of traction underwater, pulling a sizable land animal (50 kg+) to the water would be very difficult, especially if caught alive.

On top of that, these sapients, compared to humans, can't see very well (primary senses are electroreception, sonar, & vibration detection). So going up to the surface poses a real danger for the sapients since their main ways of sensing the environment is inhibited.

Finally, most land animals are significantly away from marine coastlines, or are amphibious (both land & water) in fresh water instead of the ocean. This makes reaching the terrestrial prey difficult.

How could they effectively hunt these elusive, mysterious, & powerful prey?

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    $\begingroup$ What large land animals are they wanting to hunt and why? (That is, given an assumed abundance of marine life and many more small large animals than large land animals, why pick the most difficult targets?) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9 at 2:53
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    $\begingroup$ Probably Pareiasaurs. The smaller land animals don't seem to go near the ocean as much, and I could be wrong with that, and certain parts of the water is surrounded by land so they most likely try to cross this natural barrier to make things faster to get to certain resources and tribes. Once they realize the existence of such creatures, they'll try to kill the ones that are the most difficult for their land vehicles, and want to harvest it because they're carnivores. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ I would recommend changing this to "how could an aquatic species hunt land animals"; we have no idea how they would behave for sure but can come up with some ways they could. Folks tend to get picky about this. $\endgroup$
    – KEY_ABRADE
    Commented Jan 9 at 3:06
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    $\begingroup$ Omg, I'm sorry, lemme change it before anyone starts demanding to close this! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9 at 3:08
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    $\begingroup$ I changed the tech level, in order to give more precedence and leeway to this rather unlikely scenario. Whaling for humans started in 3000 bc with the inuits. I'm sure there's some cephalopod societies that might find reasons to hunt land creatures $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9 at 3:28

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Same way we catch what we want. Bait or traps. Stand on the wrong bit of seaweed and you sink into a trap.

Pigs and dogs will go out at low tide looking for food, so set something up that they can see or smell and then nab them. Even monkeys will go out at low tide looking for shellfish.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm so dumb, I totally didn't think about low tide! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9 at 3:44
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    $\begingroup$ Best part of this is that if you trap something properly during low tide, when you come by to check during high tide there's nothing left to do but the butchery. $\endgroup$
    – Tacroy
    Commented Jan 9 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ Tides are only regular if you have a moon. $\endgroup$
    – KalleMP
    Commented Jan 9 at 16:18
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    $\begingroup$ @KalleMP, you still get regular tides if all you have is a sun, they're just not as big as lunar tides. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Jan 10 at 2:49
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    $\begingroup$ @Mark sun tides are too small to be of significance. 1 cm tops here on Earth won't do much for trapping creatures that are way larger. $\endgroup$
    – Vesper
    Commented Jan 11 at 12:04
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This is possibly one of the freakiest "mermaids" I've ever done. Sorry in advance.


The Rise of the Modular Meat-eater Mermaids

She was there once more, lounging by the rocks. The fog that enveloped her beach had some strange supernatural effect to it - it addled my mind and kept my vision blurry, but my senses were still keen enough for me to follow her song.

I came closer. Her smell was intoxicating, like something out of a dream. It smelt like the salty sands of the beach had found a happy marriage with a field of summer flowers, offering a familiar embrace for the sailor that brought to mind memories of both home and sea.

She was looking at me. Her face seemed somewhat odd - she had a mouth, but it didn't move. Yet, she sang, calling me closer to her. Her arms stretched towards me as if offering an embrace. Her body seemed to move and twitch in an ethereal way as if it didn't belong to the realms of flesh. As if she was one with the water that touched her dainty feet... or was it a fishtail? No, it was something else. She had many tentacles beneath her waist, embracing the rock she was on top. A strange sort of mermaid, but one that was equally enchanting, nonetheless.

I couldn't resist anymore. I offered my arms to her and moved into her arms.

She embraced me, but it felt strange. I moved in too close to her. Her two - no, four - six - arms brought themselves upon me, dividing and splitting into something else. She embraced me everywhere, pulling me closer, and closer, and then she opened up her entire body from top to bottom, splitting in half, and then pulled me inside of what seemed an endless mass of writhing tentacles. Her body closed around me, fully enveloping my being, plunging me into a strange, deep darkness.

That was when I knew I had sealed my fate.

Yet, I couldn't get myself to resist, or fight, or move away. My body was paralyzed by her wicked slime, making me a prisoner inside my flesh. I couldn't do anything but wait, as she plunged us both in the water.

She made us swim to the bottom. I couldn't see anything, but I felt the water becoming colder and colder.

When she let me go, I could see once again - but I wished I did not.

I saw my monstrous captor unravel herself into a swarm of body parts, that further transformed in front of my water-addled eyes. Her lovely face twisted and contorted. Its fair colors drained, being replaced by a strange, yellowish color with many blue and red rings on its surface. Fingers, arms, the lovely red hair - everything became masses and masses of tentacles in front of me. My lover became an army of underwater monsters, and they kept pushing me down towards a cave, hidden away behind a large coral.

They had brought me to their young, and I was their dinner.

I couldn't even scream.


So, hear me out.

Eusocial cephalopods are one of the most scary beings ever devised. Not because of what they can do on their own, but because of what they can do together.

I don't see those beings hunting in the classical manner. Instead, they would be incredibly creative killers, banding together and using their innate biological weapons to paralyze and murder their dinner candidates in the most horrific way possible.

Ahem.

I believe they would disguise themselves as either food, or mates for their prospective victims. Then they would imitate the mating calls of those that they hunt, bringing them closer and closer, until they could bite them with their incredibly toxic venom. This would paralyze the victim, which they would them grab and move towards their "nests" deep below.

How they move their victims is their most insidious trick.

They start by swarming around its body and eveloping the victim with their tentacles, adhering quite strongly to it. Once they had done so, they take control of the victim's movement, forcing it to "walk" or "swim" towards a place where they call pull them down towards their nests.

Once they're on their nesting area, they release the victim - which, still paralyzed, can't do much besides being eaten alive by those creative killers and their young.

Did I mention they were freaky?


Just a note: While my sample text depicts a poor human/humanoid alien being eaten alive by one of those mermaids, their prey can be pretty much anything that can be tricked by the Modular Mermaid mimicry.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the nightmare 🙀 $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ @SuperYoshikong My pleasure. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Jan 9 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ The opening of mermaid immediately got me thinking of when Patrick explained to Spongebob how starfish feed $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 11 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ Well delivered and a great idea! $\endgroup$
    – MER
    Commented Jan 12 at 19:32
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If your race can tolerate freshwater, then they can swim upstream on large rivers, and hunt like crocodiles: prey on animals that come to the river to drink water.

If they are constrained to seawater, this doesn't work because no animal comes to seawater to drink. However, some animals do come towards seawater to catch fish.

If your marine predator can swim just a little bit deeper than small fish, then they can prey on birds and other animals that are themselves preying on fish. Or maybe your predator can even have an appendage that looks like a small fish but is actually a lure.

Lots of bird species, notably seagulls, fly very low above the water to catch fish that swim too close to the surface. In addition to birds, you can find a list of fish-eating species at Wikipedia: Piscivore. Otters, felines, polar bears, sea lions, penguins, serpents, etc.

Imagine if your species is preying on unsuspecting polar bears who are trying to catch fish! That's badass. Polar bears are fierce fighters both on land and in water, but if they're caught by surprise, a pack of intelligent marine predators might be able to take them down underwater.

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    $\begingroup$ If this is an intelligent species it would make more sense that they constructed a lure rather than have it be part of their body. Intelligent species are generalists $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ @RichardTingle the lure can have developed before inteligence. Also, even appendages that weren't made to be lures (like fingers) can be used as such. Bare-hand fishing is a thing that works by making the finger look like an worm, for example. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Jan 9 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the earlier parts, but the last paragraph is off-base — polar bears are marine animals, in most senses of the term; they’re extremely strong swimmers and well-adapted to water, including for plenty of their hunting. Squid-people or mer-people might well be able to take one down just as we’ve long hunted bears on land, but that’s by dint of intelligence and co-operation, not because the bears are at any disadvantage underwater. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 11 at 23:19
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Frame challenge: Why would they want to?

Humans have leveraged their intelligence to outsmart small aquatic prey with simple tricks - nets, traps and baited hooks will catch most fish. We've also practised opportunistic hunting of larger, slower prey (whales) by waiting until particularly slow specimens surfaced and "mugging" them.

In all cases, the reason we've done this is that there's not too much effort involved for the reward. When the reward becomes too small (as is happening in many areas with over-fishing), the fishing stops. And when the effort is too large, again we don't go fishing - that's why fishing villages are on the coast, but move a few miles inland and historically everyone was farming instead.

Humans didn't progress to hunting anything larger or smarter until they had serious technology behind them - and even there we've always had to wait until they were closer to the surface. Even with all our modern resources, we still don't have any way to head down to serious depths and take on a giant squid on its own territory.

So, why do you think your squids would be trying to get land-based prey? Sure they might pick off anything on the shoreline, in the same way as fishermen pick off anything close to the surface - in which case they'd mostly be going for shellfish and maybe birds. The chances of them catching anything bigger are as remote as our chances of hooking a sperm whale at random - that kind of prey simply wouldn't be there.

And as for them building fish tanks (the other kind of tank!) to hunt on land, that's just a non-starter.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe it's some kind of ritual intended to show off their prowess - difficult land-based hunts need not be the primary source of food. In the real world, quite a few hunters get injured or killed during a hunt, but people still hunt purely for recreation. Some animals are hunted not for any practical purpose, but because they are dangerous game. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ @NuclearHoagie True, but that only really applies once you've satisfied more basic needs. Bronze Age hunters would mostly be hunting for food or killing animals that endangered people or livestock. And even granted that they sometimes did, there were still very real limits on what was possible. No-one ever went below breath-hold depths in the sea, for sure! $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Jan 9 at 15:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Graham That depends. Bronze age saw many different levels of cultures, from more tribal spear hunters to the lavish Minoans with beautiful palaces and complex culture. I fully believe a group from the Bronze Age as developed as the Minoans doing this sort of hunting for sport, for example - or even as a way to hunt for "exotic foods". $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Jan 11 at 12:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Graham Whaling is ancient. We've been catching whales, dolphins and similar animals since 6000 BCE. Bronze Age starts at 3300 BC. Those beings certainly have the tech. This is a non-issue for the time frame. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Jan 11 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Mermaker Like I said in my answer, when was the last time we went hunting whales underwater? Every whaling method, with no exceptions, requires waiting until the whale is literally on the surface and shooting it. For merfolk, that equates to waiting for a land animal to come near the beach and shooting it. It doesn't, in any possible way, involve them getting out of the water. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Jan 11 at 19:01
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definitely traps or bait, maybe if they are advanced enough with training animals like sea snakes or seals to hunt or lure things back to the sea. Especially since creatures like seals are pretty friendly to humans I have no doubt they'd be easy to tame, maybe they'd even upgrade to walruses.

Things like on land labor would be easy with those large beasts hauling everything they may need into the sea.

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    $\begingroup$ That sounds like a great idea. To hunt land predators you tame prey and use your tamed prey as bait to get the predator near/into the water. To hunt land prey you tame preadators and use them to chase the prey near/into water. $\endgroup$
    – datacube
    Commented Jan 9 at 14:48
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I would like to highlight an idea I took from Sarah Messer's answer:

With a bit of engineering, they could use natural subterran waterways and construct their own water-filled tunnels to get to deep into "land territory", for example to lurk in marshes, or even pop out in the middle of a forest.

While constructing tens of kilometers of tunnel isn't feasible, but they could "hike" there from stage to stage. First, swim up a river, find a water source, and construct only a few hundred meter of tunnel, reaching deep into land undetected.

Since travelling from the sea into land would be a several day long and dangerous journey, there could be "hunting seasons": the aquatic creatures would send groups to go hunting, similar to human tribes sending small teams to hunt big prey far away from the camp.

The hunting parties could be out for a month, and this journey could be part of the culture, where taking down huge land based pray would earn respect and mark the invidiual as a grown up hunter/warrior.

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    $\begingroup$ Again, a complement to the fishing seasons of migrating fish and whales, inverting land and water. One almost wonders whether the cephalopods could build the inverted equivalent of a boat: A water container which allows them to travel over land, like we travel the seas in boats and submarines. I'll actually add that to my answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 12 at 6:18
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Not sure how well this fits with your "Bronze Age" setting, but generally, an aquatic race would hunt on land very much like a terrestrial race would hunt in water, just in reverse. That is:

  • Boats -> mobile aquariums;
  • Warming wet suit -> cooling dry suit;
  • Scuba gear -> water breathing gear (although iiuc, your lungfish-like creatures can readily breathe air) — without that, they are restricted to short incursions, like free divers;
  • Sonar -> Vidar, i.e. something that allows them to locate prey on land by turning visuals to sound which they can perceive, the same way our sonar turns sound to visual;
  • Harpoon -> Gun, pulley for retrieving

Etc. They must compensate for all their problems which they have as water animals on land the same way we land animals must compensate when we hunt in the water. A Bronze Age culture will likely be restricted to short incursions, the same way our Bronze Age predecessors could make only short excursions under water.

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Killer whales can catch seals from floating ice by working together and either breaking the ice, or tumbling it. Just have a land animal which ventures out on floating ice and use a killer whale type of attack.

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With a bit of engineering (admittedly a stretch for Bronze Age tech), your aquatic species might be able to build dams or similar structures to either divert rivers or control tides. If they can create some critical thresholds (perhaps sudden collapse of a dam), they could create flash floods in targeted areas. Managing subterranean waterways or subsurface channels could produce effects similar to the surface-level dams we're familiar with, but with the added effects of powerful undertows and fewer warning signs visible above the waterline.

In effect, they'd control floods along the coastline, and unsuspecting land-dwellers could get washed out to sea, trapped in murderous undertows, dashed against rocks / coral, washed off cliffs, or trapped in dark underwater caves.

Compare humans hunting mammoths by chasing them over cliffs...

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    $\begingroup$ Making a dam is one heck of work done, and making a dam that would flood a lot of land when broken is more than that. This strictly opposes hunting, which is a job done out of necessity in short timespan (or hunter would die of hunger). And, breaking a dam with hopes of hitting some stray animals with flash flood? You underestimate normal prey, there would be rarely a catch if there's somewhere to run away. $\endgroup$
    – Vesper
    Commented Jan 11 at 7:53

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