Friday, April 11, 2008

Sex and the Single Octopus

Who knew octopuses could be kinky?

Well, it turns out that the males are, anyway (big surprise there).

A UC Berkeley graduate student has done research showing that octopuses flirt and appear to hold “hands” during sex. The males exhibit macho behavior, engage in wrestling matches, and even strangle each other to compete over females.

Unlike in the human realm, big females are apparently better when it comes to cherchez l’octopussy. A male will seek a big female and stick with her, but he doesn't turn down the opportunity to mate with smaller fry if one happens to stumble across his path. (I’m assuming these quickie encounters are the octo-equivalents of one-night stands, and are never observed by Big Mama waiting at the home rock.)

Small males evidently get quite creative and sneaky when it comes to nicking a little nooky from a larger male. They hide behind rocks and pounce when Big Daddy is away, or they change their color to masquerade as a female, and do the nasty right under Big Daddy’s beak. (Male octopuses must think they’re watching two females going at it, which I guess is every guy’s fantasy, no matter what the species.)
Here's a link to the press release about the study:

So what do the mating habits of octopuses have to do with this blog and writing? Well, I’m an avid collector of IFNWKs (pronounced if-en-wicks). This stands for “Interesting Facts Not Worth Knowing.” My mind attracts them like cat hair on a black suit, and they often find their way into my writing.

I know that somehow, someday, a randy octopus will make its way into one of my stories.

How about you? Do you have any IFNWKs that you particularly like?

Update: Hey, Camille had a great idea to run a contest for the best IFNWK. Post your comment and IFNWK in the Comments section of this blog by 9 p.m. PT this coming Thursday. Winner gets a signed copy of DYING TO BE THIN.


Sheila Connolly said...

My mind is cluttered with more factoids than anyone wants to hear. But your post reminded me of a recent segment on ABC News, which showed squid changing color What was intriguing was that apparently one color (white) attracts the opposite sex, while the other color (red, I think) signals to enemies that you're up for a fight. The male squid can make one side of his body amorous (hey, gorgeous, I'm flirting with you) while repelling competitors with the other side (she's mine and you can't have her!). The dividing line is completely straight and runs right down the middle. And (there's more!) the male can switch colors/sides instantly, to keep the correct sides facing his targets. There is film!

Kathryn Lilley said...

Ooh, that sounds fascinating! I'll have to browse over to ABC and see if they have it posted. Thanks, Sheila!

Camille Minichino said...

I feel a contest coming on!
Who carries the most unusual IFNWK around?

I like number-related IFNWK, like pi to 20 decimal places.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Ah, a contest! I love it! I'll send a signed copy of DYING TO BE THIN to the winner! Of course, I don't qualify to play, then, but my most recent IFNWK is that the optimal minimum amount of water that a human can live on is 3 gallons a day. They found that out during long-term studies in preparation for a manned visit to Mars.

Leigh said...

An they said I was all arms!

Like my father, I have a brain like a glue trap that can't unstick something once it's in. (sigh)

Fascinating topic!

Linda O. Johnston said...

Well, I recently learned a controversy about pumpkin... but it's not something I want to repeat here. But I love the info about octopi, Kathryn!

Kathryn Lilley said...

You bring up a good point, Linda, vis a vis octopi vs octopuses. I had to look it up on to confirm the plural. For years I was worried (though not enough to look it up) which was correct for the plural of octopus. Turns out both are okay!

H said...

my IFNWK is that when cooking with eggs 1 ostrich egg is equal to 21 chicken eggs

Kathryn Lilley said...