Cephalopod pancakes

By pancake artist Nathan Shields, whose other creations we've previously featured. Read the rest

Cute octopus flier on post

"Do you want this octopust to have fewer legs?" Spotted in Oakland. (via mikaeladupomp) Read the rest

10,000 baby octopuses, 80,000 arms, 1 night to remember

An octopus' life is short — two years is a pretty common lifespan — and heavily focused on reproduction. They only get one shot at carrying on the genetic lineage and die soon after breeding. Babies are born not by the two, or tens, or even hundreds. Instead, tens of thousands of octopus siblings enter the world all at once — tiny, translucent hatchlings that ride the waves and try not to die more quickly than they already must.

This footage of an brood of giant Pacific octopuses hatching was filmed by divers in Puget Sound just a couple of weeks ago.

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Lady squid dress in drag

The opalescent inshore squid (which, if you've eaten squid in the US, then you've probably eaten before) can change color just like octopuses can. In fact, scientists found that female squid can give themselves a white stripe that looks an awful lot like the testicles of their male counterparts. It's probably some kind of defensive measure, but the scientists are more interested in how the squid change color, not why. That's because the mechanism is unique, and fascinating. Read the rest

When the octopus says, "ouch"

Given that people are going around doing things like cutting off octopus limbs in order to understand their distributed neuron processing system, it's worth asking some questions about how octopuses perceive pain, as well. That's more complicated than you might think. As Katherine Harmon explains, it's likely that octopuses have some kind of awareness of when they're touching something unpleasant. But just how that works, and how similar it might be to the way we vertebrates understand "pain", is a big mystery. Read the rest

Octopus limbs have a mind of their own

A couple of years ago, I recorded a talk on octopus neurobiology. One of the freakiest things you'll learn, if you watch it, is that an octopus' "brain" isn't really a centralized thing the way ours is. The processing capacity is distributed throughout the animal's body. At io9 today, Annalee Newitz writes about a new study that backs up that idea, demonstrating that disembodied octopus arms react to threats in ways a severed human hand never could. Read the rest

Baby nautilus proves you don't need vertebrae to be adorable

This baby nautilus emerged this week from an egg laid last November at San Diego's Birch Aquarium. For this tiny cephalopod, the process of being born took not hours, or even days, but weeks. The ZooBorns site has a series of photos that show how the nautilus slooooooowly emerged from the egg. Read the rest

Octopus found atop England's highest mountain

During a community trash-gathering exercise on England's Scafell Pike, a volunteer found the remains of an octopus near the peak, the BBC reports. "The mountain does attract a lot of people climbing it," said cephalopod discoverer Dave Ascough, 43. "... so unfortunately it does attract a lot of litter" Read the rest

Why young Luiz doesn't want to eat octopus


This thoughtful, articulate young fellow explains why he doesn't want to eat octopus. (Thanks, Sean Ness!) Read the rest

A group of squid is called a ...

For the record, squid come in shoals. Not quite as good as a squad. But still nicely alliterative.

Via Craig McClain

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Celebrate Cephalopod Awareness Days!

A video about cuttlefish and their amazing color-changing skills. Other members of the cephalopod family can also change color, but cuttlefish are famous for their ability to produce moving patterns on their own skin.

Fish mimics mimic octopus

This is a great find by Not Exactly Rocket Science's Ed Yong. A tourist and a couple of researchers from the California Academy of Sciences have documented an instance of Pacific-dwelling jawfish hiding from predators by blending into the stripes of well-known camouflage guru, the mimic octopus.

This relationship is probably a rare occurrence. The black-marble jawfish is found throughout the Pacific from Japan to Australia, while the mimic octopus only hangs around Indonesia and Malaysia. For most of its range, the jawfish has no octopuses to hide against. Instead, Ross and Rocha think that this particular fish is engaging in “opportunistic mimicry”, taking advantage of a rare chance to share in an octopus’s protection.

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An octopus, in need of sunscreen

Floating just below the surface of the water near Italy's Mt. Vesuvius, an octopus suns its head lump in this National Geographic Picture of the Day.

Thanks Maggie Fitzgibbon!

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Octopus walks on land

Perhaps you've heard the tale of the octopus that broke out of its tank at the aquarium and walked across the room to break into another tank where it proceeded to eat other forms of sea life.

That story is kind of an urban legend. It's supposedly happened at every aquarium in the world, but can't be confirmed. And experts have told me that the hard floors in an aquarium would likely seriously damage the suction pads of any octopus that tried it.

But the basic idea—that an octopus could pop out of the water and move across dry ground&dmdash;is a very real thing. Here, an octopus at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in California hauls itself out of the water, and scoots awkwardly around on land for a little bit (while some apparently Minnesotan tourists gawk), before sliding back into the water. It's not the most graceful sort of travel. But it can be very handy. Octopuses do this in nature to escape predators, and also to find food of their own in tidal pools.

As an added bonus: Scientific American just started an all-octopuses, all-the-time blog called The Octopus Chronicles. Check it out!

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Cuttlefish tricks

Marine biologist Roger Hanlon is king of the color-changing cephalopods. I've talked about him here before. In this video, narrated by NPR's Robert Krulwich, Hanlon demonstrates how much fun his job really is.

Via Robert Krulwich's blog, which has more background on the camouflage gymnastics that cephalopods are capable of.

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Montage of awesome cephalopod camouflage clips

Roger Hanlon is a scientist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. He studies cephalopods—octopus, squid, and cuttlefish. Specifically, he studies the way these animals change their skin color and texture to match with their surroundings.

I've talked about his research before on BoingBoing Video and showed you some truly astounding footage he shot of a bunch of kelp that suddenly turns out to be a disguised octopus.

In this video segment from NPR's Science Friday, you can see more of Hanlon's videos of camouflaged cephalopods. There's also some great up-close footage of chromatophores—the special cells that allow cephalopods to change their color and shape.

Thanks to Andrea James for sending this over!

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Bisexual squid, lurking in the deep

For obvious reasons, there's not a lot of observational data concerning the behavior of deep-sea-dwelling squid. But a new study has found indirect evidence that one species of squid—the 5-inch long Octopoteuthis deletron—mates both bisexually, and promiscuously.

How do you get indirect evidence of sex? If you've ever watched CSI, you can guess. It's all about looking for sperm.

Or, in this case, spermatophores. Squid mate differently from humans. Instead of depositing sperm-filled semen directly into a female, heterosexual squid mating involves a sperm-filled biological container, of sorts. The male attaches this spermatophore to the female, and over time the sperm get absorbed into her skin. (Which is, frankly, weird. Even for spermatophore-based sex.) So, when researchers wanted to see how much sex the squid were having, they just started looking at video of squid and counting the attached spermatophores. From the BBC:

"Going through hours of video, we found that both males and females carry sperm packages. As the locations of sperm packages were similar in both sexes, we concluded that males mate with males and females."

The finding surprised the team, said Dr Hoving.

The researchers found equal numbers of female and male squid that had had sperm packages deposited on them, indicating that same-sex mating was as frequent as encounters between squid of the opposite sex.

The number of sperm packages that had been deposited also suggested that these animals were promiscuous, the researchers said.

How you interpret those findings gets a lot more speculative, though. Read the rest