Our Eight-Armed Friend?

Silvia Killingsworth, after running through all the wondrous traits of the octopus, questions the ethics of eating one:

After all this research, I find myself suffering from what Michael Pollan, in his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” calls “ethical heartburn.” Is an animal’s marked intelligence really reason enough not to eat it? Many arguments have been made against eating pigs on the same grounds. But, unlike domesticated animals, octopuses don’t have what Pollan calls a “bargain with humanity,” wherein they are dependent on us rearing them as either food or pets. (Though I do wonder what’s become of Tracy Morgan’s pet octopus.) Candace Croney, an associate professor of animal sciences at Purdue University, told Modern Farmer earlier this year, “If we’ve decided to eat pigs despite the fact that they are smart, should we not at least use the information that we have to make their lives as positive as possible up until the point when we decide, ‘Well now they’ve become food?’”

Previous Dish threads on the question of eating pigs vs dogs here and horses here.

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.