Read our COVID-19 research and news.

No sexual cannibalism for these octopuses

In the struggle for survival, female octopuses may be their own worst enemies: Sometimes instead of mating, they devour their partners. But a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE paints a warmer, less macabre picture that defies everything researchers know about these creatures. Unlike most octopuses, the larger Pacific striped octopus does not practice sexual cannibalism. Instead, the female lives with her suitors, mating and even eating together—beak-to-beak and sucker-to-sucker. The species was first observed in the 1970s, but it has not been officially described and it has no scientific name. For the first time, scientists studied these cephalopods in captivity, allowing 24 octopuses (13 male and 11 female) to mate in large tanks after acclimatizing to their new homes. Other octopus species would win the gold medal of parental sacrifice: After laying their eggs, females starve to death in order to protect them until they hatch. The Pacific striped octopuses, on the other hand, continue to mate even as they tend their eggs. Such bizarre reproductive behaviors are proof that scientists still have much to learn about these bulbous and intelligent sea creatures.