From BBC

Mimic Octopus Thaumoctopus mimicus Lembeh Strait Celebes Sea Sulawesi Indonesia. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.
Presented by
Katherine Harmon Courage

Male octopuses have a big problem: female octopuses. Each male wants to mate and pass on his genes to a new generation. The trouble is, the female is often larger and hungrier than he is, so there is a constant risk that, instead of mating, the female will strangle him and eat him.

The males have a host of tricks to survive the mating process. Some of them can quite literally mate at arm’s length. Others sneak into a female’s den disguised as another gal, or sacrifice their entire mating arm to the female and then make a hasty retreat.

It’s all very macabre. It’s also a paradox. Octopuses are some of the most antisocial, unfriendly animals alive. Yet their bodies have evolved in such a way that they must mate in the most intimate way possible: the male has to insert his sperm directly into the female’s body using one of his arms. The resulting mating practices are not just a curiosity: they are a window onto how octopuses have evolved into the creatures they are today.

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Wunderpus octopuses (Wunderpus photogenicus) mating (Credit: Roy Caldwell)

Octopuses and their close cousins the squid all belong to a group of animals called cephalopods. Both are actually molluscs, making them close relatives of oysters and limpets, but they have lost their shells.

Octopuses tend to be profoundly antagonistic towards each other. Unlike gregarious animals like dolphins, they appear to see their own kind primarily as competition, and sometimes food.

There’s always the threat of cannibalism

Squid, which are downright social by comparison, mate in a distinctly unromantic way. A male squid swims by and deposits sperm in one quick move outside of the female’s body. She can decide later whether to accept it.

But not so the octopus. “Octopus mating is definitely different than other cephalopods,” says marine biologist Jean Boal of Millersville University in Pennsylvania. The male must deposit his sperm inside the female’s body, at the risk of his life.

“There’s always the threat of cannibalism,” saysRichard Ross of the California Academy of Science’s Steinhart Aquarium. More »

A photo of larger Pacific striped octopus.

Most octopuses are loners, but larger Pacific striped octopuses, like the one shown here, display surprising social behaviors.

PHOTOGRAPH BY RICH ROSS, CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

Katherine Harmon Courage

for National Geographic

PUBLISHED JULY 28, 2014

If recent octopus discoveries have taught us anything, it’s that these eight-armed ocean dwellers are smart. They can use tools, change color in an instant, and commission their arms to solve problems. But they generally do all this as loners.

 Now, new research into a surprisingly social octopus is shattering even the most expansive ideas of known octopus behavior. (Related: “Journey of Octopus Discovery Reveals Them to Be Playful, Curious, Smart.”)

Panamanian biologist Aradio Rodaniche first reported the Pacific striped octopus in 1991 off the coast of Nicaragua, noting its strange behavior—living in groups of possibly up to 40, laying multiple egg clutches, and mating face-to-face and sucker-to-sucker. Most other octopus species, for instance, come together only to mate.

But scientists didn’t see another one of these curious octopuses for another 20 years, when Richard Ross, a biologist at the California Academy of Sciences, came across one in 2012. Through a commercial collector, he acquired several wild specimens to study in the lab.

Ross is one of the few scientists who are studying and observing some of this octopus’s truly bizarre—and sometimes anxiety-provoking—behavior, which he and his team will describe in an upcoming publication.

More »

From The Coral Triangle, The 2011 Hearst Philippine Biodiversity Expedition, A California Academy of Sciences Special Publication

 

From The Coral Triangle, The 2011 Hearst Philippine Biodiversity Expedition, A California Academy of Sciences Special Publication
Originally published in ReefsMagazine.com and on this site

penn
On April 6, 2014, I was on Penn’s Sunday School talking to Penn Jillette, Michael Goudeau and Matt Donnelly about all kinds of stuff including the Bobbit worm. The iTunes blurb – “Rich Ross tells us horror stories about cephalopods and Jay Frank tells us about the newest ways to monetize music.” I am in and out all over the episode because I was actually in studio for the taping and the Rich proper part starts around 1:06

Listen and  subscribe to the podcast on itunes – http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/penns-sunday-school/id504257078 . If you don’t like itunes you can hear it here