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Do octopuses mate to death?

Do octopuses mate to death?

Octopuses prefer living alone and come together only for mating.  While the myth about female octopuses devouring the male after mating is true in some cases, there are other situations too. A lot of factors come into play when we talk about the aftermath of the mating process and they determine what happens to the male – killed in action or live to die another day!

Mating happens when a male octopus inserts its mating arm known as hectocotylus and releases packets of sperm called as spermatophres into the mantle cavity of female octopus. This is the process of copulation but it can happen in two positions:

  • The ‘Mount’ position is the most widely known type in which the male grab on to the female and then inserts its mating arm to release spermatophres
  • The ‘Reach’ position is seen mostly in octopuses with a longer arm. In this type of mating, Male octopus stays away from the female and inserts its arm by doubling its size by stretching it. When copulation happened this way, it was observed that female octopus was mating two male octopuses at the same time as it has two siphons.

Male octopuses usually are devoured by the female right after mating and if, by luck, they survive, they die within a few months as they use up all the energy they gain while growing up. 

There are some smart octopuses that handover / donate their mating arm just like a baton and move on. They take the advantage of the detachable hectocotylus to save their life from the hungry and aggressive female octopus.  But little do they know that they are going to die anyway after the act.  Maybe they want a peaceful death than being a dinner for someone.

Whereas the above two types of positions are common, the newly discovered species the large pacific striped Octopus has a totally different and unusual way of mating. The beak to beak or the mouth to mouth position is rarely observed in animals. In this position, the two octopuses embrace by pressing their beaks and suckers. This species also made the research interesting by living in communities, sharing food and having multiple reproductions. During the mating, the colours of female changed to white and the males changed to dark with stripes.

On the other side, Female octopuses hatch clutches of eggs without eating anything for months and die as they do not eat anything during hatching.

It is heartening to see how these multi-armed strategy masters are born just to make babies and end with an undignified death.

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