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Not Such Loners After All: A New Octopus Species Is Breaking Cephalopod Stereotypes

www.thecephalopodpage.org

It is already a well-known fact that octopi are clever creatures, but they have typically always been renowned as loners in the animal kingdom. As we learned in Katherine Harmon Courage's story for National Geographic News*, however, a new species off the coast of Nicaragua could be shaking up the accepted knowledge surrounding octopus life.

The Pacific striped octopus was discovered by Aradio Rodaniche near the Nicaraguan coast in 1991. Rodaniche observed that the striped octopuses were living in groups of 40, and practicing unusual reproductive rituals, such as mating face-to-face (a generally abnormal occurrence in the octopus community).

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This species of octopus wasn't seen again for almost 20 years, until Richard Ross at the California Academy of Sciences found one in 2012 and began studying it. In Ross was fascinated by the social behavior of these cephalopods, and hoped to demystify any preconceptions about the way they live. The octopus' mating rituals alone were vexing. As Ross told story author Katherine Harmon Courage, "Regular octopus mating, where the male is behind and on top of the [female]-or far away-that's scary enough to watch... [but] watching these guys come and interact with their beaks-wrapped up in a ball of limbs-are they fighting or mating?" There is speculation that this sort of mating is reflective of a more socially inclined creature.

Courage goes on to report that Frank Grasso, a biologist at Brooklyn College, asserts that these observations "suggest a good deal of diversity and plasticity [beyond what we thought we knew about octopuses]."

Ross says that there is more studying to be done, and that a Pacific striped octopus will need to be observed from birth to death to fully understand their way of life. However, this species has served to remind us all that with octopus behavior, as Ross tells Courage, "There may be no outer limits."

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Read more crazy facts about the octopus here!

* Editor's correction: the original post did not give proper citation to the National Geographic News author, Katherine Harmon Courage, on her original article "Social Octopus Species Shatters Beliefs About Ocean Dwellers." Our sincere apologies!