Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Viva octopus lovin'!

Behold, Abdopus aculeatus, a small octopus that lives in the waters off of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Christine Huffard, a grad student at Berkeley (now a post-doc at the Monterey Bay Aquarium) was studying a large population of these octopuses and discovered some of their (until now) secret bedroom tactics.

This is all big news because everyone used to think octopuses were solitary and would just mate and then go their separate ways, without even an exchange of phone numbers or a goodbye text message. Robert Caldwell, a researcher at Berkeley had this to say about octopuses and their ways: "They're obsessively secretive, solitary and pretty spooky," Caldwell said. "If you watch them, they watch you back. It's hard to study them." Oh my god, octopuses are like the masons!

Researchers found that male Abdopus aculeatus will intently guard the females they choose to mate with. They will also strangle other males who try to get near their mate of choice. The press release for this story stated that the octopuses "hold hands" but this is actually referring to the fact that the male will insert his sperm releasing tentacle (known as the hectocotylus) and leave it inserted for a long time. If the female goes anywhere, the male gets dragged along...by his "hand."

Christine Huffard, PhD extraordinaire, also found that there were tiny males who would "sneak" matings with females. They did this by mimicking female colors, or hiding until the larger male went away--proof of the existence of metrosexual octopuses?

Finally, one other thing that I love about this story is that it found that males like larger female octopuses much more than tiny ones. That's right! Eat your sandwiches octopuses! Male octopuses do not like skinny bitches!

Thank you to Erin, Fabienne, and my mom for sending info about this my way!

I ruthlessly stole information from the Globe and Mail video, Berkeley news announcement, and NPR story for this post.

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