Tiny Deceased Octopus | May 2012 | Copyright 2012
Itís rare when I take a photograph that I simultaneously love and have a hard time viewing. This is a tiny deceased octopus that my husband found when we were doing some tide pooling in Kauai. On the one hand - cool! Because how nifty is it to see a little octopus up so close? But on the other hand - sad. Natural selection took Mr. Octopus before he even got a chance to get bigger, and become the octopus he was meant to be.
And now seems like a good time to segway to some nerdy octopus reproduction facts. (Thanks, Wikipedia!):
When octopuses reproduce, males use a specialized arm called a hectocotylus to insert spermatophores (packets of sperm) into the female's mantle cavity. The hectocotylus in benthic octopuses is usually the third right arm. Males die within a few months of mating. In some species, the female octopus can keep the sperm alive inside her for weeks until her eggs are mature. After they have been fertilized, the female lays about 200,000 eggs (this figure dramatically varies between families, genera, species and also individuals). The female hangs these eggs in strings from the ceiling of her lair, or individually attaches them to the substrate depending on the species. The female cares for the eggs, guarding them against predators, and gently blowing currents of water over them so that they get enough oxygen. The female does not hunt during the roughly one-month period spent taking care of the unhatched eggs and may ingest some of her own arms for sustenance. At around the time the eggs hatch, the mother leaves the lair and is too weak to defend herself from predators like cod, often succumbing to their attacks. The young larval octopuses spend a period of time drifting in clouds of plankton, where they feed on copepods, larval crabs and larval starfish until they are ready to descend to the ocean bottom, where the cycle repeats. This is a dangerous time for the larval octopuses; in the plankton cloud they are vulnerable to plankton eaters. In some deeper dwelling species, the young do not go through this period.