Snorkelling on a reef near Drawaqa Island in Fiji’s Yasawa Islands we witnessed the marine equivalent of Romeo & Juliet. We watched, fascinated as two octopus moved across the sea bed in what would presumably become their final act of courtship. Changing shape and colour, these guys are masters of camouflage.
Sex life of octopuses
Sadly, sex means death for octopuses. If you had just one sexual encounter to look forward to in your entire life, wouldn’t you make it a good one? Yep, we thought so. It’s the same with octopuses. They practice external fertilization. Which means that multiple males insert their spermatophores directly into a tubular funnel that the female uses to breathe, in the marine equivalent of a blow job. On the other hand (literally) shy males may simply hand the female a ‘handful’ of sperm. Oddly, the female accepts this sperm with with one of her right arms. For the male it’s game over. After depositing his sperm his job is done and he wanders off to die, presumably with a self-satisfied yet silly post-coital grin on his face.
As for the female, she’s got some work ahead of her as lays up to 400,000 eggs, which she’ll guard to the death. Prioritising motherhood, she’ll stop eating as she cares for her brood. Though she doesn’t starve to death, her body eventually rejects itself,. Her body undertakes a cascade of cellular suicide, starting from the optic glands and rippling outward through her tissues and organs until she dies. It doesn’t sound pleasant. Still, if she’s reproduced, presumably she dies happy too.
More octopus facts
Did you know that octopuses (or is the plural octopi? you decide…) have three hearts? Two hearts work independently to move blood beyond the gills while the third pumps blood to its organs.
Octopus have blue blood and squirt ink to deter predators. They need to be careful using this weapon as they can unintentionally kill themselves if they ingest their own ink.
Being boneless, they can squeeze into cracks, crevices and crazy little spaces to avoid predators. Their eight tentacles can each operate independently, making octopuses Master Multitaskers!