The larger Pacific striped octopus was first observed scientifically back in the 1970s, but owing to the fact that the behaviors observed by researchers seemed so strange the scientific community refused to publish any papers (only a single abstract) on the species. These earlier observations have been vindicated by new research though — with the very atypically octopus (-sian?) behaviors of gregariousness, mate cohabitation, multiple egg laying cycles, and strange hunting habits, all being observed.
With regard to the strange hunting behavior, it really is quite interesting — the species simply sneaks up on its prey, taps it on the “shoulder” when it’s not looking, and scares it into its arms (tentacles). Almost humorous in a way, though of course unpleasant for the one being eaten.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” states marine biologist Roy Caldwell, a University of California, Berkeley, professor of integrative biology. “Octopuses typically pounce on their prey or poke around in holes until they find something. When this octopus sees a shrimp at a distance, it compresses itself and creeps up, extends an arm up and over the shrimp, touches it on the far side and either catches it or scares it into its other arms.”
The species is also apparently quite sociable, in contrast to many octopus species — with groups of even as many as 40 individuals being seen off the Panamanian and Nicaraguan coasts, in the Pacific Ocean.
A recent press release provides more:
And while male octopuses typically share sperm with females at arm’s length, ready to flee should the female get aggressive or hungry, mating pairs of this octopus when observed in captivity sometimes cohabit in the same cavity for at least a few days while mating, with little indication of escalated aggression. Mating pairs have even been observed to share meals in an unusual beak-to-beak position.
They do engage in rough sex, however. The pair grasp each other’s arms sucker-to-sucker and mate beak-to-beak, as if kissing. The females mate frequently and lay eggs over several months, whereas the females of most known octopuses die after a single brood.
The peculiar behaviors seen in the larger Pacific striped octopus are actually a testament to how little is known about most octopuses, Caldwell said. While their behavior and neurobiology have been extensively studied, most research is based on observations of just a handful of the more than 300 species of octopus worldwide.
“There are a lot of species of octopus, and most have never even been seen alive in the wild and certainly haven’t been studied,” he noted, quite correctly
“Personally observing and recording the incredibly unique cohabitation, hunting and mating behaviors of this fascinating octopus was beyond exciting — almost like watching cryptozoology turn into real-life zoology,” Ross noted. “It reminds us how much we still have to learn about the mysterious world of cephalopods.”
“Each time a different type of octopus is studied, we need to redefine our theories about their behavior. It turns out most don’t live up to their ‘denizen of the deep’ reputation.”
“They certainly respond to one another when they display their highly contrasting stripes and spots, so their coloration appears to be useful for group living.”
In captivity females of the species have been observed laying eggs for up to 6 months straight, brooding for up to 8 months, and continuing to feed, mate, on and on, etc — this is quite different to the life cycles of most scientifically described octopus species.
Image Credit: UC