The Most Fascinating, Loving, Squeezing, Kissing Octopus in the Ocean

Larger Pacific Striped Octopus. Photo: calacademy.org

There’s an eight-armed wonder canoodling in the sea. Ironically called the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus, its tennis ball size is small, but the creature is large in life.

This lover calls the shallow murky waters off the coast of Nicaragua and Panama home. It was initially dismissed by scientists because its described antics were so utterly opposite of all 300 known octopus species that it seemed unbelievable. But once the behaviors were observed and confirmed at the California Academy of Sciences in 2013, this new cephalopod immediately stole the oceanic spotlight.

The average octopus with its nine (yes, nine) brains is widely known as the Einstein of the sea. But the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus (LPSO) is so advanced and sophisticated, the rest are simply left in its ink.

While all other octopus varieties are solitary and live out their lives alone, this social butterfly has been found to live in groups of up to forty. That’s a heaping helping of 320 arms all in one crowded den, if you’re counting. Because LPSO live in large groups, communication is a must. In order to communicate, tell each other apart, and stay up on the latest den gossip, they display different colors, stripes, and spots to each other depending on the message they are trying to convey.

They also lead a surprisingly domestic life. LPSO find a forever mate in the colony, bond, and share chores.

Together the pair regularly cleans the den of excess food and waste, affectionately feeds each other (think Lady and the Tramp), and jointly cares for their eggs.

While other species die soon after reproducing, the LPSO couple continues to mate and reproduce repeatedly. Creating their own octo-mushy scene, they put on a passionate display of intimate kissing and embracing in a sixteen-armed tangle.

They are the only species of octopus that goes all arms out with a loving embrace that includes romantic sucker-to-sucker and beak-to-beak kissing during mating.

If that’s not enough to give you octo-envy, their hunting strategy might. This brainy hunter stalks its favorite dinner of shrimp and surprises it in a tap-n-trap method.

After a slow cautious acknowledgment and an “I’m watching you” exchange between the octopus and shrimp, a stray Inspector Gadget-like octopus arm sneaks up from behind and suddenly taps its prey on the “shoulder” causing the startled shrimp to lose all sense and leap straight into the grip of its tiny terror hunter. Gotcha!

With all of these skills in hunting, parenting, socializing, and osculating (the scientific name for kissing), scientists will be busy for some time learning what else the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus has been hiding. Considering how long they’ve managed to swim under the radar, they clearly don’t kiss and tell. But they do have quite the kissing tale.

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CHRISTY (CHICK) HUGHES is a freelance writer and a respiratory therapist living in South Walton. She and her husband moved to the beach in 2000.  One sunset…and the couple never looked back. Find her at her blog chickhughes.com.


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