Cephalopod Sex and Reproduction


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Sep 4, 2006
Cape Coral, FL
Mating in the ceph world tends to be an on-going human fascination. Choices, techniques and biologics vary widely from species to species. Observations have included severing and throwing a spermataphore loaded arm at the female (blanked octopus) , mating beak to beak (Larger Pacific Octopus), mate consumption, violent and fast copulation and gender disguise. This is an attempt to collect articles that document the different findings.
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Journal of Experimental Biology, Nicola Stead

Reproduction for most marine invertebrates is a game of odds: females release their unfertilised eggs into vast oceans and rely on co-released peptides or protein pheromones to tempt sperm towards their eggs. A few species, however, such as the common octopus, have decided to adopt a more mammalian approach and use internal fertilization. It makes sense – surely, in the confined space of the oviduct, at least some sperm should reach the egg by chance without the need for additional attractants to induce chemotaxis (movement towards a signal). However, Anna Di Cosmo from the University of Napoli Federico II, Italy, thought otherwise. She explains that during mating, male octopuses will deposit sperm into the oviduct of the female, but females aren't always ready with an egg and so the sperm will bury themselves into the lining of the oviducal glands. When a mature egg is released, the waiting sperm needs a kick-start to get moving again and Di Cosmo suspected that a chemoattractant similar to those released by free-spawning animals might be involved (p. 2229).

Di Cosmo and her team caught several female octopuses off the coast of Naples and collected their mature eggs. The team then homogenized the eggs and, using a form of chromatography, separated the mixture into fractions of different proteins. Each fraction was then tested for its ability to coax sperm, collected from the oviducal glands, into moving through a fine mesh from one side to the other. One fraction in particular enticed sperm movement and the team identified the attractant as a small 11 kDa protein that they called octopus sperm-attractant peptide (Octo-SAP).

The team further characterized Octo-SAP's properties and showed that chemotaxis occurred in a concentration-dependent manner, with more sperm moving when Octo-SAP was concentrated. Using a microscope to film the tiny movements, the team also showed that the sperm moved up the concentration gradient towards areas of high Octo-SAP concentration. Together, the results suggest that the sperm were using the attractant to home in on what they thought was an egg. So, it seems that chemoattraction isn't just for free-spawning animals after all.
© 2013. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd

Sperm-attractant peptide influences the spermatozoa swimming behavior in internal fertilization in Octopus vulgaris
Idiosepius paradoxus

Female Pygmy Squid Cryptically Favour Small Males and Fast Copulation as Observed by Removal of SpermatangiaNoriyosi Sato,Takashi Kasugai,Noriyosi Sato,Hiroyuki Munehara 2013 - subscription required

Females can express mate (or fertilisation) preferences after copulation. In the Japanese pygmy squid,Idiosepius paradoxus, in which males do not show any conspicuous pre-copulatory displays, the females remove the spermatangia attached to their bodies after copulation. In this study, we observed pre- and post-copulatory behaviours and analysed which variables associated with copulation were correlated with spermatangia removal. When females mated with larger males or copulation lasted longer female squid elongated their buccal mass after copulation and removed more spermatangia. We also investigated the effects of spermatangia removal on the retained spermatangia to predict whether cryptic female choice (CFC) influenced fertilisation success. Spermatangia removal by females had a stronger effect on the number of spermatangia retained than did the number of spermatangia ejaculated by males. These results suggest that spermatangia removal after copulation by buccal mass elongation works as a CFC in Japanese pygmy squid, and females cryptically favoured small males and fast copulation.
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Here's one of the weirder ones--good old Taningia danae.

Spermatangium implantation is reported in the large oceanic squid Taningia danae, based on ten mated females from the stomachs of sperm whales. Implanted spermatangia were located in the mantle, head and neck (on both sides) or above the nuchal cartilage, under the neck collar and were often associated with incisions. These cuts ranged from 30 to 65 mm in length and were probably made by males, using the beak or arm hooks. This is the first time wounds facilitating spermatangium storage have been observed in the internal muscle layers (rather than
external, as observed in some other species of squid). The implications of these observations for the mating behavior of the rarely encountered squid T. danae are discussed.


  • Hoving et al 2010.pdf
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Some comments here in the discussion for Onykia ingens.

Sexual dimorphism in size and morphology of the lower beak of the warty onychoteuthid squid Moroteuthis ingens is analysed. Beaks of maturing males exhibit a band of weak, clear cartilage across the shoulder region, while mature males exhibit a pronounced excavation of this area; the hood remains intact. Female beaks attain greater size, but relatively shorter lower rostral lengths (LRL) than those of males; they display neither the shoulder cartilage nor later erosion, but the hood is consistently eroded in mature specimens. The angle ridge in females is considerably longer than in males. Due to the difference in LRL relative to overall beak size, M. ingens beaks from predator stomachs should be sexed prior to calculating prey size using LRL; for both sexes, the LRL-mantle length (ML) relationship is linear while the LRL-weight relationship is exponential. Sex-specific equations are provided for reconstructing ML and weight using LRL. Based on several incidences of male-female pairs collected with beaks interlocked, M. ingens is postulated to mate in a head-to-head position, with both individuals incurring beak damage during the event.


  • Bolstad 2006.pdf
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Doryteuthis opalescens - common market squid

True colors: Female squid have 2 ways to switch color, according to a UCSB study Sept 2013

This central white stripe on the female squid occurs on the dorsal surface of the mantel between the fins, in the same location as the conspicuously bright white testis in the male. “Our best supposition is that the female can masquerade as a male to discourage multiple matings,” said Daniel DeMartini, the doctoral student and co-author who discovered this feature. “The white stripe is turned on so it looks like the female has a testis. She may do this to protect the survival of her fertilized eggs, but that is just a suggestion.”

“The ideal number of matings might be more than one but less than many,” added Morse. “In other words, it might be best to have a few matings so that the female’s eggs are fertilized by a few fathers to increase genetic diversity, making the offspring better able to survive under a range of environmental conditions like the rising temperature in the ocean, for example. The female wouldn’t want to look like a male from the beginning because that would discourage all mating.”
@Tintenfisch, Can you try again on that link? It looks like you picked up the search criteria but not the URL (note the spaces and missing dot com/org/etc: http://hoving reproduction cephalopod) To edit the link highlight it and click the chain link with the x then click somewhere else then rehighlight and click the link. Don't try to unlink and link without unhighlighting as it confused the editor :roll:
Aquatopia: The Imaginary of the Ocean Deep, Tate St Ives — review
'Squiggle, squiggle, ooh, good...' Tate St Ives shows how sexy the octopus can be
Laura Gascoigne 23 November 2013

But the dominant species in this show, if you’re counting appearances, is the cephalopod. ‘A glutinous mass, endowed with a malignant will, what can be more horrible?’ is how Victor Hugo characterised this aquatic villain of countless sci-fi novels and horror films. But in the works in this exhibition, the cephalopod comes across more as a sexy beast than as a kraken. Its eroticisation dates back to Hokusai and his 1814 woodblock illustration ‘Pearl Diver and Two Octopi’, a three-on-the-sea-bed romp leaving little to the visual imagination — and spelling that little out in the accompanying text, which has been helpfully translated into English: ‘Inside, squiggle, squiggle, ooh, good… There, there! Theeeeere! … Whew! Aah! Good, good, aaaaaaaaah! Not yet…’ Meg Ryan’s performance in When Harry Met Sallyseems tame by comparison.

Hokusai spawned a genre of tentacle porn to which ‘Sex is Good’ (1999), a knitted octopus by Vidya Gastaldon & Jean-Michel Wicker, and ‘Hokusai’s Octopai’ (2004), a stuffed latex version by Spartacus Chetwynd, belong. Chetwynd’s octopus also dances to a heavy-metal soundtrack in an accompanying video, ‘Erotics and Beastiality’. Video soundtracks are the bane of exhibitions, but all the videos here come equipped with headphones apart from the Otolith Group’s ‘Hydra Decapitata’, which is overloud and, at 31 minutes, overlong. The best artists’ videos, in my experience, are short and funny. Two good examples in this show are Shimabuku’s ‘Then, I decided to give a tour of Tokyo to the octopus from Akashi’ (2000) — an amusing experiment in tentacle tourism — and Alex Bag and Ethan Kramer’s ‘Le Cruel et Curieux Vie du la Salmonellapod’ [sic] (2000), a spoof nature film about a ‘sadistic, masochistic, sexually enthusiastic’ amphibious mammal performed by puppets: The Magic Roundabout meets Jacques
Characterization of deformed hatchlings of Octopus vulgaris obtained under captivity from a small female
Pablo Jiménez-Prada, Anastasia Scherbakova, Rodrigo Riera ,Beatriz C. Felipe, António V. Sykes, Rui A. Gonçalves, José P. Andrade, Catalina Perales-Raya, Covadonga Rodríguez,Eduardo Almansa 2013 (subscription)

The common octopus (Octopus vulgaris), a promising species for aquaculture, spawns easily under captivity from mature females (usually above 1 kg wet weight). Octopus juveniles and adults are collected from nature to obtain eggs and paralarvae for aquaculture development trials. In July 2011, a very small female (150 g wet weight but with an age estimation of 300 days-old) spawned almost 77,000 paralarvae. Malformations of paralarvae were noticed in the first spawning days, namely the absence of arms. Despite not being lethal, these abnormalities might be derived from the physiological condition of the breeding specimen (the female's lower weight to the estimated amount of living days), which might be eventually related to nutritional unbalances or genetic parameters that were transferred to the eggs.
Evolution of sperm transfer mechanisms in cephalopods: adaptative convergences associated with habitat shifts in the marine environment?

Principal Investigator:Antonio Carlos Marques, Awardee:Antonio Carlos Marques
Institution:Instituto de Biociências (IB). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo, SP, Brazil
Studies on evolutionary convergences can provide important insights for understanding the factors that influence evolution. To contribute to the understanding of the patterns and processes involved in metazoan evolution and diversification in the marine environment, this study aims to investigate evolutionary convergences potentially associated with marine habitat shifts, using the class Cephalopoda as a model group. To achieve the proposed goal, we will investigate cephalopod sperm transfer mechanisms, some of which have been proposed as potentially convergent and correlated with habitat. First, organs and structures responsible for sperm transfer will be subject of functional morphology studies, aiming at the understanding of the mechanisms involved in spermatophore transfer, implantation, and storage. These analyses will include histological and electron microscopy techniques, and in vitro experimentation. This study aims also to provide a reasonable bulk of morphological data related to cephalopod reproductive strategies to allow the identification of putative homologous structures. Ancestral states for these characters will be reconstructed to attempt to identify characters that have arisen via convergent evolution. These will then be assessed for correlation with habitat, also using a phylogenetic context. Based on these results, adaptive hypotheses will then be inferred, tested and discussed. (AU)
Reversal and transfer of spermatophores by Octopus vulgaris and O. hummelincki Jerome Wodinsky 2008 (subscription)

Copulatory behavior in the octopus consists of a patterned series of movements whose individual functions are not well understood. Observations and experiments on mating in Octopus vulgaris andO. hummelincki from Bimini, Bahamas and Haiti were made over a number of years in the laboratory. The study reveals how the male octopus reverses its spermatophore prior to transferring it to the female. The male’s terminal organ (penis) extrudes the sperm end of the spermatophore as it exits from Needham’s sac up to the cap or filament thread and then, holding onto the cap thread, inserts the ejaculatory end of the spermatophore into the groove of the hectocotylus, thus reversing it. It is hypothesized that the primary function of the cap or filament thread, one part of the spermatophore, is to be a handle by which the reversal and transfer is accomplished. The siphon is merely a conduit through which the terminal organ functions and plays no role whatsoever in either the reversal of the spermatophore or in its insertion into the groove. The stimulus to which the male orients to find the groove of the hectocotylus is the apex of the retracted interbrachial membrane between the third and fourth right arms, which bears a fixed spatial relationship to the origin of the groove. A number of deviations from the successful transfer process, which represent loss of sperm from the reproductive process, are illustrated. Despite these deviations, the delicately balanced integration of the various movements serves to transfer the spermatophore to the female to ensure reproductive success.


Interesting note on the use of suckers to orient the siphon in the above referenced additional available images page. It does not appear that the enlarged suckers are used in this process.

Under these conditions, it appears that the suckers of the third and fourth arms guide the siphon and spermatophore towards the groove, their presence obscuring observation of the actual insertion by the penis (Fig. 3 ).
O. bimaculoides

Aggressive male mating behavior depends on female maturity in Octopus bimaculoides
Sobhi Mohanty,Alfredo F. Ojanguren,Lee A. Fuiman 2014 (subscription)

This laboratory study examined the combined effects of male and female behaviors on the outcome of mating encounters inOctopus bimaculoides. We found that male–male competition for mating opportunities depends on female maturity; the presence of immature females elicited significantly higher levels of aggression between competing males. We conclude that males are able to assess the reproductive status of females. The study also found that immature and mature females resisted male mating attempts to a similar extent but that males that showed more aggression toward male competitors were able to spend more time in contact with females. We suggest that the lack of prominent visual displays in these mating trials indicates the importance of chemical cues inOctopusmating systems, as has been demonstrated for other cephalopods. This study contributes to the growing research on cephalopod mating systems and in particular shows thatOctopusmating dynamics may be more behaviorally complex than initially assumed.
Evaluation of relationship between Chilean octopus (Octopus mimus Gould, 1852) egg health condition and the egg bacterial community
Shunpei Iehata, Fernando Valenzuela, Carlos Riquelme 2014 (subscription)

The objective of this study was to evaluate how bacterial community associated with Chilean octopus (Octopus mimus) egg was related to egg health condition using a culture dependent method and PCR-DGGE fingerprinting technique. Total heterotrophic bacterial number of fresh egg was much lower than infected egg. However, biodiversity of culturable bacterial community associated with the fresh egg exhibited a higher diversity than the infected egg. Result of a culture dependent method showed that Roseobacter clade was predominant in the fresh egg, while predominant species in the infected egg was γ-proteobacteria. DGGE fingerprinting technique showed that fresh egg associated unculturable bacterial community was constituted of Roseobacter clade and Bacteroidetes, whereas Bacteroidetes was predominant bacteria in the infected egg. These results suggest that there might be some sort of relationship between octopus eggs associated bacterial community and egg health condition. Moreover, Roseobacter clade and Bacteroidetes might be potential symbiotic bacteria associated with the octopus egg, and some γ-proteobacteria might be involved in octopus egg disease. In particular, Roseobacter clade may play an important role in octopus egg health and it raises the possibility that this clade can be utilized as potential probiotics for octopus aquaculture.

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