The common octopus can be found throughout the temperate and tropical marine waters of the world and makes a good subject for your camera. It is an intelligent mollusc that has a complex eye mechanism that leads us to believe it can see very well. It can pass its boneless body through the tiniest of holes and it has the uncanny ability to change both its colour and texture at will by rotating tiny discs within the structure of its skin. This is used primarily as a strategy to avoid being detected by both prey and predator but is also a useful tool for communication and the expression of emotion. Never try to describe an octopus by its colour. This can range from a serene pale blue most often seen by divers at night, to an angry deep red with a white central stripe encountered by divers that try to interfere with one of these remarkable creatures. During the summer months the male octopus seeks out a female with which to mate and having done so begins a courtship ritual that encompasses all his flamboyant abilities to change his appearance. I was lucky enough to find two octopuses romancing together and photograph the whole forty-five minute sequence of events. The male stood erect, puffed up and demonstrating his ability to become dark and knobbly. She in turn will made herself smooth and silky, often embracing herself with her own tentacles as if to appreciate her own sensuality. Octopus have the ability to alter their size too. At this time the male was big and impressive while the female appeared small and demure. The male specially adapts one of his tentacles to become a sexual organ and it is this that is used to pass packets of sperm to the female. He proffered this tentatively, hoping to seduce her into accepting it. She coyly rejected him at first while he put on alternative displays of colour and texture in the hope of hitting upon a combination that pleased her. This game went on for a long period of time until he successfully persuaded her to accept his advances and penetration ensued. At this time she too changed from smooth and silky to be as knobbly as he was, and then back again. They took no notice of me, the camera-toting voyeur, even though I was extremely close to them. The male octopus pursues the female until she catches him! They stayed locked together for some time while his sperm was passed in special packages to her. They seemed to be enjoying it immensely and took little notice of the clatter of my camera or the pulses of light from my flash. Once the job was complete, she became impressively large while he looked very much deflated. She kept hold of his precious tentacle and dragged him off unwillingly. Was she taking him shopping? No, she’s looking for a suitable home. Does this story sound familiar? Once the female octopus finds a suitable place to lay her eggs she demonstrates what a dedicated mother she is. She stays will her eggs, oxygenating them regularly by blowing fresh water over them via her siphon. She stays until they are hatched, never leaving them to feed and consequently finally ending her life in the process. The male however escapes, usually leaving that specially adapted tentacle behind with her. He eventually grows a replacement but in the mean time he goes off looking for more action. You might see the occasional lucky male octopus with very few tentacles left while he cruises the reef, still looking optimistically for more action! You can get material like this on any underwater camera set-up, from GoPro, through compact cameras to the full nine-yards of a digital SLR. If you want to know how to get pictures as sharp and clear as this, check with the people at Ocean Leisure Cameras. If you need an octopus-rig for your regulator, the main store at Ocean Leisure has a selection to choose from. If you've enjoyed reading this blog, you will enjoy Amazing Diving Stories by the same author.
This entry was posted on 16th January 2015.