Weird Nature

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Octopus Sex  

Katie Mach
76.8k views 12 items

The mystery of octopus sex is one of life's greatest questions. We know that octopus reproduction must happen, since octopuses (not octopi!) exist, but how, exactly, do octopuses have sex? If you've never thought about this before, you're thinking about it now. And if you think it might be complicated or weird, you don't even know the half of it.

Researchers have only recently learned more about the reproductive habits of these 8-legged creatures. In fact, they once thought octopuses, normally solitary creatures, had boring, speedy sex. Boy were those researchers wrong. 

So, what is octopus sex like? It's violent, takes hours, and often results in death by cannibalism. When you finish reading this list of octopus sex facts, you will be glad you're not an octopus. But always remember, knowledge is power. Read this list and all the questions you didn't know you had about octopuses getting it on will finally get answered. 

Octopuses Lose Their Minds after Sex, Then Die
Octopuses Lose Their Minds aft... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Octopus Sex
Photo:  Jerry Kirkhart

Even if two Pacific octopuses succeed in copulating without a scratch, they both enter a stage called senescence. It's a "dementia-like" state that begins soon after mating and only ends with death. Males experience this in solitude, whereas females tend to their eggs during senescence.

Pacific octopuses will stop eating and essentially waste away, wandering aimlessly through the open water and making themselves easy targets for predators. Eventually, lesions appear on their skin that do not heal, and they die of either infection, starvation, or as prey. Romeo and Juliet would love Pacific octopuses. 

Sex Sometimes Ends in Cannabilsm
Sex Sometimes Ends in Cannabil... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Octopus Sex
Photo: Scott Ableman/flickr/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

As if male octopuses didn't already have enough on the line, researchers have seen female octopuses kill and eat their suitors. That's pretty aggressive flirting, but these things happen. According to Richard Ross of the California Academy of Science's Steinhart Aquarium, "There's always the threat of cannibalism."

Males Face Grave Risks During Sex
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Photo:  sarangib/Pixabay/CC0 1.0

Octopus copulation is complex and violent, but male octopuses bear the brunt of the danger. Female octopuses may strangle, gravely injure, or tear limbs from their potential mates. Wise male octopuses know better than to mess around with their mates in the bedroom.

A Male Will Rip His Own Arm off to Escape Sex Alive
A Male Will Rip His Own Arm of... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Octopus Sex
Photo:  Arnaud Abadie

Sometimes, the male octopus will perceive danger while mating and will cut and run - literally. Males have been known to leave their mating arm inside the female in order to ensure the pair's safety. This allows for successful mating even if the male has to leave in a hurry.