Octopus Love Involves Strangulation, Cannibalism

Scientists observe one killing, eating her partner

By Shelley Hazen,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 23, 2014 4:40 PM CDT

(Newser) – Some guys fall asleep after a little love-making. But if you’re a male octopus, that nap can be more like eternal rest. Two scientists have detailed how carnal relations between a lady octopus and her lover can prove fatal for the male, especially if he’s not that well-endowed, Scientific American reports. The researchers observed this morbid scenario in Indonesia. After 15 minutes of mating, the female wrapped three of her arms around the base of the male’s mantle (which contains all his organs) to keep him from taking in fresh water, his only source of oxygen. When he stopped moving, "the female enveloped his body with her web and carried him to what appeared to be her den,” they write.

And what happened in there? Apparently, she ate him, writes Scientific American's Katherine Harmon Courage. Unfortunately, males with a smaller or average hectocotylus—the arm that stores the sperm—are more likely to get killed because they can't keep far enough away from their partners. In species with females who are sexual cannibals—like the octopus—males generally have a longer hectocotylus so they can survive mating. Good news for the dead male, though: He likely managed to fertilize her eggs before meeting his maker, ensuring that his genes—and his memory—will live on. (Scientists recently learned even more about the life of an octopus.)

Male octopuses need to keep their distance during mating.
Male octopuses need to keep their distance during mating.   (AP Photo)
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