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Not Tentacle Porn (well, kinda tentacle porn...)
February 25, 2013 12:42 PM   Subscribe

The sex lives of octopuses is often difficult to photograph in the wild, however Dr. Roy Caldwell got very fortunate with a pair in his lab. Here are some very rare pictures of the Abdopus aculeatus octopus mating, with a photo by photo explanation of what is happening.
posted by quin (54 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite

 
You call that only kinda tentacle porn??
posted by kiltedtaco at 12:47 PM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


His job done, the male withdraws his hectocotylus from the female and jets away into the abyss.

plus ça change...
posted by jquinby at 12:48 PM on February 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


I wish there had been pictures of all the baby octopi hatching, too.
posted by Aubergine at 12:50 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


No thank you.
posted by boo_radley at 12:52 PM on February 25, 2013


I hope you're happy, you little shit! You killed your mother!
posted by Samizdata at 12:57 PM on February 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Males can remain inserted into females for hours, repeatedly passing spermatophores down the hectocotylus. When the female moves, the male is often dragged along by his hectocotylus.

Wow.

Also, I did not know the female died once the eggs were well on their way. They are smart, playful animals and this seems incredibly sad to me. So much for the romance of it all.
posted by bearwife at 12:58 PM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


octopodes
posted by lazaruslong at 1:03 PM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


This was depressing. And made me happy that human childbirth is long and painful, but doesn't mean mama dies.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:04 PM on February 25, 2013


Also, I did not know the female died once the eggs were well on their way.

Apparently the male dies after mating, too. I don't blame them for dragging out their one shot for as long as possible. Le petit mort indeed.
posted by yoink at 1:04 PM on February 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


Those eggs are incredibly beautiful.

I go scuba diving, and though in my experience divers tend to be pretty considerate of sea life, these amazing creatures tend to bring out the worst in them. I remember a night dive on my last trip to Belize when someone found a skittish, camouflaged octo and a group of divers surrounded it with their giant spotlight cameras and took pictures for minutes while the poor thing desperately tried to scramble away.
posted by eugenen at 1:05 PM on February 25, 2013


I was just at the Seattle Aquarium this weekend where I got to see the octupi, which were quite tired and sluggish after having copulated on Valentine's Day. They were both just hanging around, waiting to be released into the wild, where they would soon die.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 1:05 PM on February 25, 2013


Every time I draw an octopus, I include a crudely drawn penis for the third tentacle on the right side for a hectocotylus joke. Nobody ever notices.
posted by peeedro at 1:06 PM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


When the female moves, the male is often dragged along by his hectocotylus.

Ha ha ha sounds like a trip to Target AM I RIGHT FELLAS click "Like" to like this post
posted by Greg Nog at 1:23 PM on February 25, 2013 [37 favorites]


thank you for the amazing picture set. That was very, very cool.
posted by Fraxas at 1:24 PM on February 25, 2013


Here's a video of an octopus unscrewing.
posted by hal9k at 1:32 PM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


What is the name of that feeling were you feel awed and happy and infinitely sad at the same time?

Octopuses give me that.

They are so smart and beautiful. When kept in aquariums they can learn to recognize their owners, and they can be trained to do all kinds of tricks. They can even answer to their name, if the name is a shape painted on a card or some other visual symbol. They have their own individual personalities, and they come up with tricks of their own.

And once they know you and trust you, they will let you touch them, and will come to you and give you hundreds of loving kisses with their little suckers. And they look into your eyes and you look into theirs and you feel that a fragile golden thread of communication is connecting two of the most advanced and alien intelligences on earth, and that gives you hope for every little living thing.

And then a year has gone by and they die in front of your eyes and you have to learn to say good-bye and there is nothing you can do about it.

Keeping octopuses is like Fry's dog in Futurama ever year for ever and ever.

I am happy there are braver or more masochistic scientists and enthusiasts advancing the state of the art in octopus breeding every year. Dolphins and apes are intelligent, but too much like us. Even parrots and corvids, the tiny dinosaurs that made it, are just a few branches apart in the tree of life, like half brothers, all tetrapods. Octopuses, who are not even vertebrates, are as close to an alien intelligence as we will probably get before we are all dead.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 1:59 PM on February 25, 2013 [329 favorites]


That was kind of like watching fractals do it.
posted by carsonb at 1:59 PM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is the female being devoured by a giant clam in the next to last photo and why is this being ignored in the captions???
posted by orme at 2:00 PM on February 25, 2013


I wish there had been pictures of all the baby octopi hatching, too.

Ask and ye shall receive.
posted by RobertFrost at 2:05 PM on February 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


orme -> that empty shell is her shelter.

Beautiful pictures.

It's interesting to think about how since cephalopods don't nurture post-birth, unlike some birds and many mammals, there is much less information that can be passed on to succeeding generations. Everything they pass on is genetic.
posted by nickggully at 2:10 PM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Doroteo Arango II: "What is the name of that feeling were you feel awed and happy and infinitely sad at the same time?"

life
posted by theredpen at 2:13 PM on February 25, 2013 [18 favorites]


Octopussy galore?
posted by Rashomon at 2:20 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


What is the name of that feeling were you feel awed and happy and infinitely sad at the same time?

David Lynch.
posted by goethean at 2:32 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


... the male is often dragged along by his hectocotylus.

Ain't that the truth.
posted by mazola at 2:35 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


however Dr. Roy Caldwell got very fortunate with a pair in his lab.

First, I think this would violate any reasonable animal protocol. Second, if he got so fortunate with that pair, why isn't he in the pictures?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:47 PM on February 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


The Love Live of the Octopus (1965)

Bonus alternate soundtrack by Yo La Tengo.
posted by schmod at 3:55 PM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'll be in my conch.
posted by zippy at 4:08 PM on February 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


...they will let you touch them, and will come to you and give you hundreds of loving kisses with their little suckers.

And then a year has gone by and they die in front of your eyes and you have to learn to say good-bye and there is nothing you can do about it.

I think I have something in my eyes.

Meanwhile, yay octos. Make lots and lots more octos that live and thrive.
Oh, noes!
posted by BlueHorse at 4:10 PM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is a self link to a previous post so please forgive me

Very nifty video. Didnt know octopi ate sharks, even little ones.

A little octopus anecdote of mine: Was diving off Utila (Honduras) on a night dive and we saw a tiny scarlet octopus scooting along the sandy bottom, obviously trying to escape our lights and presence. As it slipped away, a much larger octopus (like 20x its size, the first one was barely a hand-width in size) came out of the darkness, stretched out with one of its tentacles and wrapped a tip around the equally outstretched tentacle of the smaller one, and led it away to the safety of some rocks.

Exactly like a Mother protecting its child.

It was among the most amazing things I've ever seen while diving. Octopi are simply amazing creatures.
posted by elendil71 at 10:31 AM on August 8, 2005 [42 favorites +] [!]


I only post it again because I didn't know octopus mommies died after after giving birth. But I stand by what myself and a dozen others saw. Which means... octopus have a society. Others care for the young. Think about that the next time you're in a sushi restaurant.
posted by elendil71 at 4:27 PM on February 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


I am happy there are braver or more masochistic scientists and enthusiasts advancing the state of the art in octopus breeding every year.
I have a colleague/friend who works on octopus embryogenesis. It rather pains them, a sensitive animal-loving soul, to have to physically wrestle the eggs away from the momma octopus. In addition to the emotional stress of actual baby snatching from an intelligent creature who will soon be wasting away to nothing, momma fights back pretty viciously.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 5:25 PM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


On my first night dive ever, my dive instructor/guide pulled me over to show me a tiny hole in the coral from which were emanating hundreds and hundreds of tiny Hawaiian Octopus "babies" which glinted in the light of his dive torch. You could barely make out the mother inside the hole but the coruscating fountain of her spawn was just magical.

The best thing, however, was that there was a tiny hawaiian lobster which was perched right at the hole's opening just grabbing all he could and stuffing his mouth at the all-you-can-eat octopus fry buffet. His little arms were just whirring away shoveling that stuff in like he was up against Joey Chestnut in an eating competition. The little dude probably felt like he'd won the lobster lottery or something.

I have yet to see another octopus giving birth since then and it remains one of the reasons why I love diving so much.

Also, octopuses are just awesome!
posted by ooga_booga at 5:43 PM on February 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


Romance? If you are referring to a chemical reaction, maybe...blah...blah...black sheep. Silly stuff.

Yeah, okay, you just sit there and keep proving how cool you are, we'll be over here grooving on the octopodes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:37 PM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dr. Roy Caldwell got very fortunate with a pair in his lab

You showed a great deal of restraint in avoiding "got lucky."

I do not have as much restraint.
posted by Zed at 8:33 PM on February 25, 2013


I don't understand what is going on here (is the third arm the penis? Why not just call it that?) but it is rather beautiful.
posted by Monday at 9:33 PM on February 25, 2013


For those feeling bad about the short lived, loneyl octopus, consider the Larger Pacific Striped octopus. Lives in groups, often found in pairs, the female DOESN'T die immediately after laying eggs, and mates face to face. So unusual, that an early paper describing it's behavior was rejected.

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing our successors!
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:52 PM on February 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Monday, it is not a penis, it is an hectocotylus.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 11:52 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember when I first read about the high intelligence but relatively short lifespan of [plural of octopus least likely to cause debate] and thinking to myself: perhaps this is how we might appear to other observers from another world.
posted by digitalprimate at 4:08 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


They are so smart and beautiful. When kept in aquariums they can learn to recognize their owners, and they can be trained to do all kinds of tricks. They can even answer to their name

I misread that as 'they can even answer the phone' and immediately thought: you know, that is smart.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:42 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Monday, it is not a penis, it is an hectocotylus.

But okay, what's the difference? If I just say that "hectocotylus" is a fancy word for "octopus penis," what am I missing?
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 6:39 AM on February 26, 2013


Here's a video of baby octopuses from the Vancouver Aquarium. Lovely music too.
posted by colfax at 7:33 AM on February 26, 2013


OK, the distinction is kind of fuzzy, but octopuses are so far away from the fuzzy dividing line that there is no confusion.

A penis is an organ of the males that penetrates the female and delivers sperm. To be called a penis, intromission and sperm delivery have to be the sole or principal purpose of the organ. In mammals the penis is also used for urination.

Octopuses have an hectocotylus because the organ is clearly a modified arm, and is used as an arm most of the time. Also, it is a stretch to call what octppuses do 'intromission'.

Spiders have pedipalps because the organs have the same segments as a leg, and while spiders use them to collect sperm and transfer it to the female, other arachnids use them as mouth parts or 'weapons'.

I hope this makes things clearer.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 8:30 AM on February 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


From the hectocotylus wiki:

Depending on the species, the male may use it merely to store and transfer sperm to the female, or he may wrench it off and present it to the female.

Try that with a human and get back to me on how well it works.
posted by SomaSoda at 11:22 AM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


*crawls on, bedraggled and bleeding, from offstage*

NOT WELL.

Thank you for the helpful explanations! Yay science!
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 1:54 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


That was kind of like watching fractals do it.

Mandelbrot sex?
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:50 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


in a partial dimension
with voyeuristic intention...
posted by Zed at 1:04 PM on February 27, 2013


I swore back in 2008 on MetaFilter I would never eat an octopus again and I meant it. So when my housemate comes home last night with a giant one (and proceeds with an elaborate cooking recipe, including two potatoes stuffed in its head and a "frightening" method requiring three dunks in boiling water) I felt compelled to share with them all why I wouldn't be partaking. Basically, I told stories of octopus stunts and other complex behaviors, juggling videos on YouTube and the like. I mean really, there's just so many places to go with it! I only wish I knew about the mating habits then! Anyways, I also tried to explain the thing I read about how octopus brains developed independently of human brains but both contain similar developments unique to just them both...I think it had something to do with lateralization? ...anybody know what I'm talking about here?

Anyways, I love this post. Fascinating creatures.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:07 PM on February 27, 2013


Yup. This comment.
posted by joyceanmachine at 3:28 PM on February 27, 2013


Octopuses are rad as hell and Doroteo Arango II's comment made my chin quiver.

iamkimiam: You left out a pretty crucial part of that story, where your housemate agreed that eating the octopus would be a horrible thing to do and now you have an awesome octopus pet (I am assuming it was a live octopus because of the "frightening" bit).
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:41 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because the OP did not, I would like to link to his previous octopus post, which introduced me to the beautiful and touching article in Orion magazine Inside the Mind of an Octopus:

Upon seeing Menashi, Athena reached up gently and grasped his hands and arms. She flipped upside down, and he placed a capelin in some of the suckers near her mouth, at the center of her arms. The fish vanished. After she had eaten, Athena floated in the tank upside down, like a puppy asking for a belly rub. Her arms twisted lazily. I took one in my hand to feel the suckers—did that arm know it had hold of a different person than the other arms did? Her grip felt calm, relaxed. With me, earlier, she seemed playful, exploratory, excited. The way she held Menashi with her suckers seemed to me like the way a long-married couple holds hands at the movies.

I leaned over the tank to look again into her eyes, and she bobbed up to return my gaze. “She has eyelids like a person does,” Menashi said. He gently slid his hand near one of her eyes, causing her to slowly wink.

Thank you quin, for your octopus posts and for opening my mind to these lovely creatures.
posted by young sister beacon at 4:03 PM on February 27, 2013 [7 favorites]


I hope this makes things clearer.

No sir, it did not.

I do, however, appreciate the attempt.
posted by Bonzai at 8:25 PM on February 27, 2013


I got an octopus tattoo because I thought they were generally neat, it was a pretty idea, etc. But now I know how awesome they are with all the great info I learn about them from here.

Was this where I saw the video of an octopus grabbing a seagull? Pretty badass creatures and smart as hell.
posted by DisreputableDog at 6:08 AM on March 1, 2013


I recall "playing" with an octopus at a small aquarium in Japan last fall. It was bored in its tank, and would lazily stretch a tentacle to follow my finger as I traced it along the outside of the tank. I wish I had taken video!
posted by KokuRyu at 10:41 AM on March 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


And they look into your eyes and you look into theirs and you feel that a fragile golden thread of communication is connecting two of the most advanced and alien intelligences on earth, and that gives you hope for every little living thing.

This is how Cthulhu cultists get started, ya know.
posted by JHarris at 12:55 PM on March 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have a parrot. She's ~6 years old now. If we keep her healthy she may very possibly outlive me. And I hope that she does. As maudlin as it sounds I do not know how I would cope with her dying. I have gotten that attached to my little green dragon. She's a Quaker Parrot. And I am totally and completely in love with her.
posted by Splunge at 5:37 PM on March 8, 2013


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