A rare glimpse at the ‘rainbow’ octopus

Rare footage of a blanket octopus in the Philippines has captivated marine enthusiasts with an incredible array of colours. But there is a lot more to these amazing animals than meets the eyes.

The blanket octopus is often referred to as the ‘rainbow’ octopus

An up-close look at one of the most beautiful and elusive cephalopods around has everyone in awe of their amazing appearance. Commonly referred to as the blanket octopus, after the long sheets of webbing that stretch between some of their arms, this new video also highlights why some prefer the name rainbow octopus. But it is not just their ‘technicolour dreamcoat’ that will leave you in awe of the blanket octopus. They make intriguing couples due to the difference in size between the males and females, which is one of the largest in the animal kingdom. They also boast some impressive defensive traits that let them go toe to toe with some of the most dangerous creatures of the deep. Check out these incredible invertebrates for yourself and find out why there is so much more too them than meets the eye.

A stunning sight

The video of the blanket octopus has captured the attention of people from around the world. The footage captured by a diver in the Philippines was released earlier this week and shows two female octopuses they found. Check out the footage for yourselves…

Unconventional couples

It is not entirely known why blanket octopuses are so vibrantly rainbow coloured. One theory is that it is to attract mates. However reproduction is much more complicated than just colouration for these cephalopods. The females, like those featured in the video above, will grow to six feet long whereas the males will only grow to a max length of less than an inch! This is what is known as sexual dimorphism and blanket octopuses are one of the best examples of it with the females weighing in at over 40,000 times heavier than their male counterparts. It is not entirely known why the difference is so large but it is likely that males spend all their time and energy on locating females across large distances instead of investing in costly growth.

When they do find one another the male transfers its sperm via a specialised arm, called a hectocotylus, which he will actually detach from himself and give to the female. She will then keep it stored in her mantle cavity until she is ready to lay her eggs. A female will be able to do this with multiple males and store all of their arms before deciding on which one to use. When she has made up her mind she will lay up to 100,000 eggs and then release the sperm from the male’s hectocotylus over them. This is truly one of the most bizarre but equally fascinating forms of reproduction anywhere in nature. But for blanket octopuses, like most other cephalopods, it is also deadly. Males will die almost immediately after mating after losing one of its arms and a significant amount of energy and a similar fate awaits the females after they have laid their eggs and fertilized them. It shows us just how important passing on their own genes to the next generation is to them that they are literally willing to die to do it.

Defensive tactics

A female extends her webbed sheets in an attempt to intimidate predators

In order to get to the point where they can reproduce blanket octopuses must survive against harsh odds using an array of defensive tactics. The first is their ‘blankets’ or more accurately sheets of webbing that stretch between some of their arms. When confronted by predators the octopuses will stretch out their arms created a large silhouette designed to trick predators into thinking they are much larger than they really are. If this does not work they can actually detach their sheets and hopefully fool predators long enough to make their escape. Their vibrant skin also doubles up as a form of multi-coloured armour as it is impervious to the toxins of most other ocean dwellers including the normally deadly Portuguese man-o-war. In fact they have even been known to rip off the toxic tentacles and use them as weapons against other predators or to hunt their own prey. So clearly there is a lot more to these crazy creatures than just their creative colour-scheme.

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