A beautiful octopus, new to science

March 23, 2013 • 8:21 am
A press release from the California Academy of Sciences announces the public display of a very rare octopus:

 Initially discovered in 1991 but largely forgotten until now, the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus is about to crawl into the spotlight in a new display at the California Academy of Sciences. Academy biologist Richard Ross, who studies octopuses and their relatives, has spent the last 13 months raising and studying the behavior of this recently rediscovered species, along with Dr. Roy Caldwell of the University of California, Berkeley. While they are still working on a formal description of the species, which doesn’t yet have a scientific name, they didn’t want to wait any longer to share this spectacular animal with the public.

“I’m thrilled that Academy visitors will have the opportunity to view this fascinating animal up close in the aquarium, where they’ll see just why its beauty, unique mating technique and social habits are intriguing the cephalopod community,” says Ross.

You needn’t wait any longer, for I’ve put a video below. Lovely, no? Look at that display of chromatophores—changing one side but not the other! As the Academy release says,

 . . . the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus is also remarkable for its dramatic coloration, which can switch from a dark reddish hue to black with white stripes and spots in fluid waves. The octopus can also assume different shapes, both flat and expanded.

The beast is unusual in other ways.  As “Octopus Chronicles” of Scientific American notes, it has an ususual mating behavior:

The larger Pacific striped octopus also takes a novel approach to sex. Many species mate from afar—to avoid being eaten—with the male reaching his specialized hectocotylus arm into a female’s mantel [sic] cavity. Some researchers have observed this move happening even while the two octopuses remained in their separate dens. In other species, a male will sidle up to a female or mount her to insert his arm tip.

rare larger pacific striped octopus mating beak to beak

But the larger Pacific striped octopus mates front-to-front, sucker-to-sucker, beak-to-beak. The male still makes use of his hectocotylus arm, but in this case, he does it from an otherwise risky position right near the female’s mouth. “They seem to be rather pretty sexy,” Caldwell told the Chronicle.

Indeed; “mating beak to beak” conjures up the old Irving Berlin song (sung by Fred Astaire in Top Hat), “[Dancing] Cheek to cheek

Read more about this cephalopod in the Scientific American piece by Katherine Harmon; it contains a statement that’s amusing but understandable to any biologist:
“The larger Pacific striped octopus is the most beautiful octopus I have ever seen,” Roy Caldwell, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. . .
h/t: SGM

14 thoughts on “A beautiful octopus, new to science

    1. Wow, thanks for the link. I’ve been fascinated with the color changing creatures since I first saw a film of them. Used for defensive coloration but also communication I think.

  1. Reminds me of the Pacific Northwest Arboreal Octopus spoof article which was hosted on Conservapedia for a while back in 2007 until it was mocked in the blogosphere.

  2. Oh, small world.
    This evening’s reading matter was a phylogenetic study of the various species of the “Giant Squid” genus, Architeuhis with several rather unexpected conclusions : they’re all one species, not the several expected (“lumpers” score about -8 ; “splitters” nil) ; the species has a really remarkably low degree of genetic diversity for a species of global distribution ; and generally it’s genetics are pretty weird.
    If I knew the address of the Squidly One’s blog-not-a-website, I might almost be tempted to see what he’s got to say about losing about 7 of his favoured species. But I don’t, so I’ll just point people towards Proc.R.Soc.B, 2013, v280, 20130273 which is available through the RS website. I got it free, but that may be an early-publishing deal.

  3. And giant squid are all one specieshttp://www.fis.com/fis/worldnews/worldnews.asp?l=e&country=0&special=&monthyear=&day=&id=59679&ndb=1&df=0

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