Nature is full of amazing and intriguing creatures. The octopus is one of the most fascinating. Some people believe they are aliens. One long-unsolved mystery is the octopus’s self-destruction after mating. Scientists have long puzzled over why octopuses torture themselves after mating.
Researchers may finally have an answer after all this time.
Mother octopuses have long been known to torture and even eat themselves when their eggs are about to hatch. While they aren’t the only animals in the wild that die after mating, they have one of the more gruesome methods.
Scientists have been figuring out why octopuses behave this way after mating for years. A new study published in the journal Current Biology may finally provide the answers we’ve been looking for. According to researchers, mother octopuses torture themselves after mating due to chemical changes that occur around the time the mother lays her eggs.
A 1977 study discovered that a group of glands near the octopus’s eyes were responsible for the self-destruction mechanism. The researchers found that these glands in the octopus produce steroid hormones. These glands go into overdrive after the mother has laid her eggs. These steroids are thought to drive octopuses to torture themselves.
The researchers discovered three distinct chemical shifts that occur at the same time the octopus mother lays her eggs. First, pregnenolone and progesterone levels rise. These two hormones are commonly associated with reproduction in a variety of animals. As a result, it’s not surprising to see them here.
They then noticed a second shift as the octopus produced more 7-dehydrocholesterol, or 7-DHC. This is a component of cholesterol, and humans produce it as part of the cholesterol-making process. It could, however, be one of the chemical changes that cause octopuses to torture themselves after mating.
7-DHC is a potentially toxic compound. That is why humans do not retain it for long. According to the researchers, the optic glands also began producing more of the components used in bile acids. Octopuses do not use the same bile acids as humans and other animals, but they produce the building blocks for those acids.
The researchers believe that all of these chemical changes combine to cause octopuses to torture themselves. The precise reason for these changes, or why the octopus’s body is designed in this manner, is unknown. According to Z. Yan Wang, an assistant professor at the University of Washington, it could be a way to protect the younger octopuses.
Octopuses are cannibalistic creatures by nature. As a result, the torture and subsequent death caused by these changes could be a natural culling of the older generation in order to protect the younglings from being killed and eaten by the older octopuses.