Octopus mating is anything but subtle. Females often emit clouds of white eggs, which the males then follow until they find the female again and mate with her. The process is also quite dangerous for male octopuses because once they have found a willing partner, they will inevitably die almost immediately after mating. The reason for this is that male octopuses typically release their sperm directly into the female’s arms (also known as her renal or renal) sac – an act that often results in their death. Why do Octopuses Die After Mating? Let’s take a closer look at why octopus mating ends in death for most males and what scientists know about it so far…
Why Do Octopuses Die After Mating?
- Mating is painful for the female and the male is more worried about losing his own life than the female’s pain (in most cases).
- Female octopuses have a natural defense mechanism to protect their eggs from being eaten by predators, and it is triggered when they sense male sperm in their reproductive tract. The defense mechanism causes the female to clamp down on her eggs and expel them out of her body through a special opening on her cloaca that connects her gonads to her mouth called a siphonophore, which is located just behind her beak. In other words, she will literally tear her own insides apart in order to protect those precious eggs inside of her! However, this “defense mechanism” is completely involuntary and cannot be controlled by the female. So, even if she is not in pain, she may still expel her eggs because she cannot control them.
- In most cases, the male octopus has a very short life span and can only father a few offspring over his lifetime. So, he will have to mate with many females to ensure that his genetic material survives for future generations. However, this will put him at risk of being killed by the same predators that are hunting the female octopus to eat those eggs!
- The male octopus can only fertilize the female’s eggs through mating with her and therefore cannot fertilize any other eggs that she might lay in her lifetime (unless he is able to lay his own eggs again). Thus, if he dies before mating with her again, then all of his efforts will have been wasted and he will never be able to pass on his genetic material again!
- Mating with an octopus is not a “one-time thing”. It is not like having sex with a human or a dog. Once he mates with her, he will be stuck with her for life and will have to mate with her again if he wants to pass on his genetic material to future generations.
- The female octopus is the one who controls when she lays her eggs and when she gives birth to them. If she does not want to mate with the male, then she can simply choose not to mate and wait for him to die before laying eggs in the future (this is called “autotomy”). This way, she can protect herself from predators that would normally eat her eggs, but also ensures that all of his genetic material will die out forever!
- The male octopus cannot control when he dies either. He may die from old age or from an accident at sea or even from being eaten by another octopus. So, if he does not mate with the female octopus, then he will never be able to pass on his genetic material again!
- A female octopus can hold up to 100 eggs inside of her body at a time and can have as many as one million eggs in total over her lifetime!
- The male octopus has no control over whether or not the female has babies or not. So, if she lays all of the eggs and gives birth to them all at once, then they will live their entire lives inside of her and cannot even crawl out on their own (unless they are born with a tiny little tentacle that is able to crawl out). If she does not lay any eggs at all for a long period of time, then those eggs may die off from starvation or from being eaten by predators (which is why it’s so important for him to mate with her every single day).
- If the female octopus decides to “autotomize” for a long period of time (like if she is sick or something), then the male octopus can no longer mate with her and will die as well. So, if he does not mate with her, then he might as well just die himself!
The Evolutionary Reason Why Octopuses Die After Mating?
- The genes carried by sperm cells have a tendency to remain with their mother for about two weeks after birth, so when the eggs are fertilized by her sperm, it is now her genetic material that will be in the embryos.
- The eggs that a female lays are not her own, and they are not even her eggs. They are the eggs of another female octopus.
- Even though the female may have given birth to hundreds of babies, she will still only produce a few hundred thousand sperm cells. These will fight for fertilization of the eggs, and since she is often one of many females in the same location that can lay eggs, she may not always be able to win over all of them.
- The male octopus has no control over which other octopuses he mates with; this is determined by his environment, and if there’s a large number of females in the area, then he might mate with any or all of them.
- While some species have evolved to take on different roles within their species (e.g., pack leaders), others still stick to their original function (e.g., reproducing).
- Octopuses mate in the water, and the female lays eggs on the sea floor. As soon as she lays her eggs, she dies.
How Does Octopus Mating Lead To Death?
In order to prevent this from happening, scientists have developed various techniques that allow them to study how octopuses mate and what happens afterward. They have found that there are several factors that contribute to an octopus’s death after mating; some of these include:
- The size of the male octopus: Larger males have larger penises, which makes it more difficult for them to control their ejaculation while mating with smaller females. This is because they are less able to control the movement of their penises.
- The size of the female octopus: Larger females have longer reproductive tracts, which means that they can take in more sperm during mating. This increases their chances of passing on their genes to future generations.
- The number of times that the male octopus mates with a female octopus: This is controlled by how long the male has been in a relationship with his partner. If he has been with her for a long time, he will be more likely to mate with her again and thus increase his chances of passing on his genes to future generations. The above factors are all contributing factors to why an octopus dies after mating; however, there are some other factors as well, including (but not limited to):
- The length of time that the female spends in water: After she mates, she will spend more time in water and this will increase her chances of dying.
A Word From Verywell
These facts about octopus mating may seem shocking, but they are important to remember when observing the species in the wild or in captivity. It’s important to note that mating octopuses are very dangerous for males and that females usually eat their mates anyway. In order to protect themselves from these dangers, male octopuses often mate with several females at the same time and make sure that the females have enough time to digest their mates so that they can mate again. These behaviors make sense when we consider the evolutionary reason why octopuses die after mating: because the male and female octopuses evolved in such a way that their sexual organs fit together in such a specific way, the female octopus has complete control over mating and can expel the male’s poison-free sperm from her sexual organs quickly.