A lot of what biologists have learned about octopi was magnificently reinvigorated by an essay titled “Deep Intellect,” by Sy Montgomery, published by Orion Magazine in 2011. In it, Montgomery reviews what he’s learned of the incredible intelligence of octopi–and their charisma, as well.
“A home, or den, which an octopus may occupy only a few days before switching to a new one, is a place where the shell-less octopus can safely hid: a hole in a rock, a discarded shell, or a cubbyhole in a sunken ship,” she wrote. And now, according to new research on the previously unknown Larger Pacific Striped Octopus, we know that they’re not always holed up alone.
NEW OCTOPUS, FAMILIAR MATING
Yesterday the Associated Press reported that California biologists have begun to study a new octopus living off the coast of central America. Their research, which to date spans two years of empirical study in the recently published journal, totally transforms our understanding of octopi.
The Larger Pacific Striped Octopi are unique in that they enjoy longer lives, and mate, almost anthropomorphically, by shacking up for days at a time in little underwater caves and discarded shells.
MALE OCTOPI SPARED FEMALE SCORN//CANNIBALISM
Many male octopi must beware of being killed and eaten by their mates, but the Larger Pacific Striped Octopi mate “beak to beak,” leading to both partners having an equal level of vulnerability. A mating couple even share the load of housework, as scientists have seen them cleaning waste out of their living spaces. Also, the female of this new species doesn’t die after laying her eggs, as many other female octopi do.
However, all of these activities were observed in captivity, and so the behavior of this species of octopi could be very different in the wild. Some features are unmistakeable, though. When this new species of octopus gets excited or upset, it changes from its original dull brown color to stripes and spots.
To review other news on Octopi, let’s reconsider that the journal Nature just published the first comprehensive map of the octopus genetic code, which is only slightly smaller than humans. Octopi are invertebrates, and generally the lack of backbone spells doom to any hope of a complex central nervous system. However, for octopi, the lack of backbone just leaves their nervous system hyper-connected, like Vietnamese powerlines.