Sobre la conducta sexual del pulpo -Janet Voight-

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Janet Voight Janet Voitght es una de experta investigadora del mundo sexual de los pulpos. Hace unos años publicó un trabajo sobre las erecciones que presentaban algunas especies de pulpos en la zona de la ligula (la parte final del aparato sexual del pulpo). La ligula suele tener un pequeño tamaño, pero al igual que los animales vertebrados cuando erecciona puede llenarse de sangre y aumentar considerablemente su tamaño). Según las teorías de Voight el tejido eréctil era una consecuencia de la evolución del pulpo, puesto que cuando más grande es el organo copulatorio más cantidad es el esperma transferida, pero de igual modo no conviene que este sea de entrada demasiado grande, ya que la ligula por su color blanquecino, si fuera inicialmente demasiado grande podría delatarle fácilmente a sus depredadores.

Aquí unos datos sobre el currículum de Janet Voight y parte de una entrevista publicados por el Field Museum de Chicago.

Janet Voight
Janet Voight joined the curatorial staff of The Field Museum in 1990, after completion of her PhD program at the University of Arizona. An evolutionary biologist and cephalopod mollusc systematist, Voight's scientific publications to date range from studies of population biology of a pygmy octopus species to a reconsideration of the evolution of ammonium-mediated buoyancy in six families of squids to her current project, a cladistic analysis of the order Octopoda, based on anatomical characters. Currently an Associate Curator at The Field Museum and a lecturer on the faculty of the Committee of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago, Voight's research uses cephalopods to learn more about the ecology and evolution of deep-sea animals.
Voight's interest in vent ecology focuses on consideration of mobile predators as members of the vent species assemblage. Although predation has been assumed to be minimal at hydrothermal vents, mobile predators such as crabs, fishes and octopuses are known to be present near Northeast Pacific vents. These animals may disperse vent-generated resources to the surrounding abyssal environment, contrary to the perception of the vents as biologically isolated units. The difficulty in securing specimens of these taxa may have limited our knowledge of this feeding guild. Voight's research addresses how to overcome problems inherent in their study.

What do you do at the Museum?

My research assesses distributional and evolutionary patterns of deep-sea animals, especially of octopuses.

How did you get interested in this field?

The end of my first year in graduate school I was kind of undecided about exactly what to do until I took a field course and started working on this little octopus. Suddenly everything went really well. As an undergraduate I had done independent research on small mammals, which gave me skills I could use to study the octopus, and I realized I had a lot of things to offer the field.
Working on this intertidal population of octopus, I got more interested in the group In a parallel project, I examined morphological diversity of benthic (bottom-dwelling) octopuses and found that deep-sea octopuses have a predictable shape while the shape of shallow-water octopuses is variable. That began my interest in how these depth groups were related.
There are a lot of different types of octopuses. Some octopuses in the deep sea have fins and essentially live their whole lives in the water column; others don't have fins but live suspended where the water is always dark, essentially just floating. Some live in the sunlit waters of the open ocean, swimming their entire lives There are hundreds of species of bottom-dwelling octopuses, which is what most people think of as an "octopus," although hardly anyone recognizes how many species there are.
Seeing specimens of deep-water octopuses made me want to see them alive, but there aren't many ways to do that. You can be on a trawl cruise, where you throw a net over the back of the ship and drag it along the bottom and pull it up, but the animals that come out are often the worse for wear. Or you can get in a submersible, and look out the window, or use a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to see the animals on the TV monitor. I've been lucky enough to use all three of these methods.

How do you catch an octopus?

Most simply, you reach out and grab it.

What's it like when you're out at sea on a project?

On research ships, there's usually one goal that all the scientists share, whether it's to have successful dives with a submersible and bring as much back as possible, or to have the trawl go down and come up as many times and as full of stuff as you can.
Everybody focuses on that goal and getting the work done. There's no TV, there's no phone, there's no fax to speak of. Sometimes there's e-mail, but not that much. It's a bunch of people that get together and learn to work together. It's wonderful. I've been at sea for as little as ten days and as long as three weeks at a time.
Because once the ship is more than 100 miles off the coast, not even marine helicopters can reach it, the ship has to be completely self-sufficient. Sometimes that isolation contributes to the group working together really well. Other times things don't go so well and there are tensions. This makes it really hard because space on the ship is so limited that people are always in each others way. Depending on the size of the boat, there could be as few as 12 people or as many as 32 in the science party, with a comparable number of crew.

What do you love about what you do?

I love the sense of discovery, whether it's hydrothermal vents or figuring out if these two octopuses that look pretty much the same are really different species. The driving force is to see what's out there in the world, especially things that nobody's seen before.
Have you experienced any gender barriers over the course of your career?
When I came to the Museum in 1990 I was the fourth woman curator in the then 97-year history of the Museum. Since then I think the Museum has done well not only at equalizing things a bit, but in hiring the best scientists by bringing on board really good female anthropologists, a zoologist, our first female geology curator and a curator in botany.
It makes it easier not to be the only woman in a department meeting or in meetings of the entire curatorial staff. There was one luncheon the entire curatorial staff was invited to and I was wearing a powder blue jacket and all the guys were wearing their grays and their blacks and it was so obvious that I was the only woman.
Individually it doesn't mean I'm discriminated against, but it does matter. As time moves on, as individuals keep setting what hopefully are good examples, doing well, in time there will be more women.


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