A Preying Mantle

Octo-blogger Katherine Harmon Courage flags new research into the tragic carnal habits of our favorite cephalopod:

[Scientist Christine] Huffard came across a pair of mating day octopuses (Octopus cyanea) near Fiabacet Island in Indonesia. The female, as is often the case in this species, was larger—with a body about seven-and-a-half inches long; the male was closer to six inches long. They were positioned on a reef, outside the female’s den, the male’s mating arm (hectocotylus) inserted into the female’s mantle from a (presumably) safe distance.

After about 15 minutes of mating, the female inched closer to the male. And, as if lunging for a quick embrace, the female encircled the male’s mantle with her two front arms, “dragging him nearer,” the researchers describe. The female’s two arms wrapped around the male’s funnel and mantle opening. The male turned white (a common escape attempt response) and seemed to fight to slink away. But the female continued her constriction for two full minutes before wrapping an additional arm around the male. Two minutes after that, the male stopped moving.

“The female enveloped his body with her web and carried him to what appeared to be her den,” Huffard and [scientist Mike] Bartick write. Apparently the male was both date and dinner.