Reversal and transfer of spermatophores by Octopus vulgaris and O. hummelinki

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2008
Authors:J. Wodinsky
Journal:Marine Biology
Keywords:behavior, Octopus, reproduction, sensory

Copulatory behavior in the octopus consists of a patterned series of movements whose individual functions are not well understood. Observations and experiments on mating in Octopus vulgaris and O. hummelincki from Bimini, Bahamas and Haiti were made over a number of years in the laboratory. The study reveals how the male octopus reverses its spermatophore prior to transferring it to the female. The male's terminal organ (penis) extrudes the sperm end of the spermatophore as it exits from Needham's sac up to the cap or filament thread and then, holding onto the cap thread, inserts the ejaculatory end of the spermatophore into the groove of the hectocotylus, thus reversing it. It is hypothesized that the primary function of the cap or filament thread, one part of the spermatophore, is to be a handle by which the reversal and transfer is accomplished. The siphon is merely a conduit through which the terminal organ functions and plays no role whatsoever in either the reversal of the spermatophore or in its insertion into the groove. The stimulus to which the male orients to find the groove of the hectocotylus is the apex of the retracted interbrachial membrane between the third and fourth right arms, which bears a fixed spatial relationship to the origin of the groove. A number of deviations from the successful transfer process, which represent loss of sperm from the reproductive process, are illustrated. Despite these deviations, the delicately balanced integration of the various movements serves to transfer the spermatophore to the female to ensure reproductive success.

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith