Whips, Capes, & Self-Mutilation

1. In all the time I’ve been talking about animal superpowers, I never thought to ask, “Is there any animal who wears a cape?” The answer: yes. It’s the Blanket Octopus of Australia, and its cape is the source of its power. Instead of squirting ink at its enemies, it unfurls a long membrane that makes it appear much larger than it really is.


I am Batman.

You must watch this clip. However, it seems to be from a very loud Japanese game show or something, so you may want to turn your sound down.

2.“The angler fish… is perhaps the most extreme example of sexual dimorphism in the animal kingdom.” That’s what I said yesterday, for some reason. Remember the canteloupe-sized female and pea-sized male? Well, the sexual dimorphism of the blanket octopus is even more extreme. The female, pictured above, grows over 6 feet long, while the male is never longer than an inch. She is up to 100 times larger and 40,000 times heavier than he is. Ladies, this would be like having a boyfriend the size of a walnut.

When the male finds a female, he fills one of his hollow tentacles with sperm, tears it off, and offers it to her — a calamari snowcone of spunk. After she takes it and inserts it into herself, he reclines and dies happy, his only purpose in life fulfilled. Fellas, if you’ve been wondering what to get your ladyfriend for Valentine’s Day… forget everything you just read about the Blanket Octopus.

3. How does the miniscule male defend himself while he’s floating around waiting for his gargantuan girlfriend to pass by? Blanket octopuses seem to be immune to the toxic tentacles of the Portuguese Man O’ War, and will rip them off their hosts and brandish bouquets of them at their enemies like so many cat o’ nine tails in their little tentacles. So, to review, the huge adult female, when threatened, deploys a cape that quadruples her apparent size, and the inch-long adult male will whip you with tentacles stolen from the world’s deadliest hydrozoan jelly. It… must be love.

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About quantumbiologist

Christian Drake, AKA The Quantum Biologist, is a naturalist and poet formerly of Albuquerque, NM and currently living deep in the backwoods of the Connecticut Berkshires. He has worked in aquariums and planetariums, national parks and urban forests. When not birding or turning over rocks to find weird bugs, he enjoys rockabilly music, gourmet cooking, playing harmonica and writing dirty haiku. View all posts by quantumbiologist

2 responses to “Whips, Capes, & Self-Mutilation

  • Tatyana Brown

    When are you going to talk about how octopuses are colorblind? That’s one of the more interesting things about them, I think.

  • Love Bug « The Quantum Biologist

    [...] after the deed; marsupial shrews which mate until they keel over dead from chafing and exhaustion; octopuses that rip off their own limbs as love tokens for their gargantuan female lovers. Young female elephants have been crushed to death beneath over-excited bulls, and female tasmanian [...]

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