Sobre la conducta sexual del pulpo -Love that costs a leg or two-

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Tener sexo con tu pareja que pesa entre 10.000 y 40.000 veces más que tú, puede considerarse más que una machada, como un auténtico milagro de la naturaleza. Eso es lo que ha descubierto el equipo que de dirige el biólogo marino Mark Norman desde Melbourne.

Love that costs a leg or two
January 23 2003

By Stephen Cauchi
Picture: David Paul

A male member of the world's most sexually unequal animal species has finally been found alive.
A senior curator at the Melbourne Museum, Mark Norman, has captured and photographed a male blanket octopus.

Not only is the hapless male about 100 times smaller than the female of the species, but it dies after having sex with her.

Dr Norman, who found a living one on the Great Barrier Reef, said that until now the two-centimetre male had only been discovered dead in trawls and plankton nets.

His achievement in capturing and photographing a live one has been documented in a recent paper for the New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research.
Octopus –David Paul-
According to the article, the male blanket octopus is, technically speaking, "the most extreme example of sexual size-dimorphism in a non-microscopic animal . . . such dimorphism is not seen in any other animal remotely as large".

In other words, as Dr Norman told The Age: "There's no other critters on that scale that have such a significant difference between the male and the female."

The two-metre female weighs at least 10,000 times as much as the male, sometimes up to 40,000 times as much.

This could make the question of position rather delicate, but as it turns out it doesn't matter.

The male, it seems, relies on its arm as much as its penis to have sex.

This reproductive arm, known as a hectocotylus, is tucked away in a white spherical pouch between its other arms. When males mate, the pouch ruptures, the penis injects sperm into the tip of the arm, the arm is severed, and passed to the female.

It stays there until used to fertilise the female's eggs, which can be weeks later.

And while the human post-orgasm is sometimes referred to as "the little death", for the male blanket octopus the term takes on literal meaning. The male dies, but the female carries on, free to have sex with more males. In lieu of notches on the bed-post, she carries a collection of male arms carrying sperm.

"It's kamikaze sex, effectively," said Dr Norman. "They've found females with up to six male arms in the gill cavity."

But how did it get that way? Males compete with each other to fertilise the female, said Dr Norman.

Being small allows the male to mature earlier, and allows for better self-protection using its tentacle segments.

Both the male and female species are lodged with the collections at Museum Victoria.


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