Hydrothermal Vent Octopus Ladies Discovered

ResearchBlogging.orgResearchers have been very concerned about the paucity of females of Vulcanoctopus hydrothermalis, an octopus inhabiting the hydrothermal vent community of the Eastern Pacific Rise. One senior, conservative squid researcher even went so far as to comment that this octopus was some part of a “queer spineless agenda.” Others scoffed at his remarks and asked for a “civil union” between the fighting factions of cephalopodologists.

Finally, after hundreds of ten years, the mystery has been solved. A single female Vulcanoctopus was captured in 2004 and 4 years later has been described by González and colleagues in the latest issue of the Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the U.K.

vulcanoct.pngThere she is, isn’t she pretty? A gorgeous specimen of the female sex if you ask me, or any of the several dozen male octopuses that have been discovered thus far. She looks much like the boys, but with a pear-shaped ovary. Interestingly, this female also lacks a specialized anatomical feature, called a spermatheca, that stores spermatophores, packets of the male’s sperm. Spermathecae are common in octopus. Since this specimen appeared to in a maturing phase, fertilization is still unknown in the species.

genesis.pngIn previous reports of the males, there were typically a high incidence of parasitism by the copepod Genesis vulcanoctopusi (picture from Lopez-Gonzalez et al. 2000). This female exhibited no evidence parasitism, evidences on males by visible cysts covering the mantle. So at least one female was STD free!
González, A., Guerra, A., Pascual, S., Segonzac, M. (2008). Female description of the hydrothermal vent cephalopod Vulcanoctopus hydrothermalis. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK, 88(02) DOI: 10.1017/S0025315408000647

Lopez-Gonzalez, P.J., Bresciani, K., Huys, R., Gonzalez, A.F., Guerra, A. & Pascual, S. (2000) Description of Genesis vulcanoctopusi gen. et. sp. nov. (Copepoda: Tisbidae) parasitic on a hydrothermal vent octopod and a reinterpretation of the life cycle of cholidyinid parpacticoids. Cahiers Biologie Marine, 41, 241-253.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.