Octopus has sophisticated sex life

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Octopuses lead interesting sex lives replete with stalking, passionate groping, and sneaky males, according to a study published in the most recent issue of the journal Marine Biology.

The paper by Christine Huffard, Roy Caldwell and Farnis Boneka examined the reproductive behaviour of Abdopus aculeatus, an orange-sized octopus species commonly found throughout the Indo-Pacific.

The authors directly observed individuals living in reefs off the shallow waters of northern Sulawesi and found the mating behaviour of the octopus to be far more complex than previously thought.

For instance, the researchers found that male octopuses didn't necessarily mate with the first female they encountered, but picked out a specific partner and then guarded her den with great zeal, wrestling or even strangling rival males that ventured too near her.

The authors note that mate-guarding was an effective and important tactic used by males to temporarily monopolize mating with apparently non-selective females.

They also found the males to prefer larger females, reasoning that arger female octopuses produce more eggs than do smaller females and by mating with them males may increase their number of offsprings. and that a very large female A. aculeatus is more likely to be gravid and close to spawning than a small female.

The researchers also discovered a different, stealthier strategy adopted by some males.

These sneaker males masquerade as females by swimming low to the substrate in the manner of females and not displaying the brown stripes characteristic of males.

For more information, see the paper: Huffard, CL, RL Caldwell and F Boneka (2008) Mating behavior of Abdopus aculeatus (d Orbigny 1834) (Cephalopoda: Octopodidae) in the wild. Marine Biology 154, pp. 353"362.