The aliens landed long ago- they just live underwater. A disproportionately sized spouse, a cape that would make any superhero jealous, and stealing jellyfish tentacles to use as their own personal octopus nunchucks are just some of the ways the Female Blanket Octopus leaves us starstruck and truly questioning if the aliens are already here. Let’s take a look and learn more facts about the Female Blanket Octopus!
Found in subtropical and tropical oceans, the Blanket Octopus (Tremoctopus violaceus), embodies that ultimate nomadic invertebrate lifestyle as she spends her days floating through the open ocean.
There are 4 species of the Blanket Octopus who are named after the females flowing iridescent and transparent flesh that connects four of their arms. Because they spend their entire lives living in the open ocean, they are rarely sighted so the Blanket Octopus continues to remain another mystery of the ocean.
However, what we do know is guaranteed to blow your mind!
7 Fun Facts About The Female Blanket Octopus
With so many of you asking us questions about the Female Blanket Octopus on our Facebook and Instagram posts, we wanted to share some more fun facts about this beautiful octopus.
Females Blanket Octopus = Supergirl?
Divers on a blackwater dive in the Lembeh Strait off the coast of Indonesia captured the unbelievable moment when a female blanket octopus zoomed by like Supergirl, her colorful cape flowing out behind her in all its glory.
How did they know it was a female? Because males don’t have capes!
🐙 Fun Fact 🐙
Males are the size of a walnut, can be up to 40,000 times lighter than the female, and really have no need for a cape. It would be pretty fun if they also had a tiny shimmering cape but alas, they remain capeless crusaders.
Get Ready To Be Intimidated
While looking spectacular and wowing divers is as good a reason as any to have a fab-looking cape, the female blanket octopus’s real use for it is to make herself appear larger.
Already a decent-sized octopus reaching up to 6.6 feet (2 meters) in length, making herself look bigger than she is to help scare away predators like:
Any who really share the open ocean with her.
🐙 Fun Fact 🐙
Her cape also contains eye spots which could aid in making predators think twice about attacking.
They Can Amputate Their Own Body Parts?!?
Floating in the open ocean gives you a solid zero number of hiding places. What is a Blanket Octopus to do if it swims into something that wants to eat her?
Like many octopuses, she can swim away quickly using jet propulsion or release ink into a predator’s face attempting to confuse it long enough to high tail it out of there. The Female Blanket Octopus has her spectacular cape which we know she can unfurl to make herself look bigger but what if that does not work?
Her backup plan is to break off portions of her cape to confuse a predator long enough to make a fast getaway with all her important parts remaining intact. Much like a lizard losing its tail when it feels threatened.
🐙 Fun Fact 🐙
Autotomy is the behavior of getting rid of one or more appendages which the male blanket octopus also does but you’ll have to read on to find out which body part they get rid of!
Octopus Nunchucks (a.k.a. Stolen Jellyfish Tentacles)
The Blanket Octopus are somehow immune to the stinging tentacles of the highly venomous Portuguese man o’ war, a jellyfish-like creature that sails the open seas. This is a pretty nifty trick, but when scientists found a Blanket Octopus with tentacles attached to their suckers, they realized they STEAL them to use as weapons to defend themselves or as little stun guns to knock out their prey.
Only the males and juvenile females will use stolen tentacles as their personal tasers!
As the female blanket octopus matures, they have no need to carry around stinging tentacles. They would not be much of a defense against the predators that are big enough to eat a larger female.
🐙 Fun Fact 🐙
For a shark or sizable fish, stinging tentacles would only add a hit of sriracha to their blanket octopus meal.
Did You Know Males Can Fit Inside The Female’s Pupil?
Males are 10% smaller than a Female Blanket Octopus is one of the most extreme sexual size-dimorphisms on the planet!
A live male was not observed until 2002 because they are so small, making them very hard to spot. Why is there such a crazy size difference? It comes down to their purpose in life.
Males can afford to be tiny since their main lot in life is to produce sperm (which is also tiny) and find a lady Blanket Octopus to give it to. Females, on the other hand, need to be bigger because it takes a lot more energy to make eggs and carry them around until they hatch.
But, how do they find each other?? Do males have exceptional eyesight so they can see the flamboyant female from afar? Does the female release a chemical into the water leaving a ‘scent trail’ that only a Male Blanket Octopus can follow?
For any budding marine biologists out there, I think we just gave you a fantastic area to study and we will be patiently waiting for answers.
🐙 Fun Fact 🐙
Shockingly, the vast size difference between males and females is not unique to a Blanket Octopus.
Argonaut Females, commonly referred to as Paper Nautili, can outweigh the males by 600 times. The males of the Football Octopus (?) are 100 times smaller than the females.
Think these size differences could not possibly get any crazier? A deep-sea anglerfish male is so small that it bites onto the female’s face and remains stuck there for its life, releasing sperm on command.
Mating Is DEADLY!
Circling back to that self-amputation: when a male blanket octopus finds a female, he detaches his mating arm (hectocotylus) and gives it to her. The arm crawls its way deep into the mantle, most likely joining the arms of other males that have also found her and are trying to pass along their genetic makeup.
Priority number 1 for males is to get that sex arm into a female asap. After this is accomplished, the male dies having fulfilled his greatest life duty.
🐙 Fun Fact 🐙
When biologists first discovered these tiny male sex arms they thought they were parasitic worms! Turns out, the female blanket octopus stores all these sex arms in her mantle cavity until she is ready to fertilize her 100,000+ eggs!
How Does The Female Blanket Octopus Carry Her Babies?
Since the open ocean lacks any form of housing or protection for an octopus’s eggs, the female blanket octopus makes herself a rod to attach her babies to. She can naturally grow this stalk out of calcium carbonate, the same material that coral skeletons and shells are made of.
Keeping her babies close means she can protect them from parasites and keep them sufficiently oxygenated. This gives them their best chance to hatch out so they can go live their best lives as tiny males with even tinier sex arms or majestic female creatures with rainbow capes flapping in the high seas.
The Female Blanket Octopus- The Rainbow Octopus Of The Sea!
Did you enjoy learning more fun facts about the Female Blanket Octopus?
If you want to educate yourself some more about all sorts of different cephalopods, take a look at our encyclopedia. Or, what we call it, our Octopedia!
Connect with other octopus lovers via the OctoNation Facebook group, OctopusFanClub.com! Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with the conservation, education, and ongoing research of cephalopods.
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- The Octo-Punch: The Truth Behind Why Octopuses Punch Fish
Corinne is a biologist with 10 years of experience in the fields of marine and wildlife biology. She has a Master’s degree in marine science from the University of Auckland and throughout her career has worked on multiple international marine conservation projects as an environmental consultant. She is an avid scuba diver, underwater photographer, and loves to share random facts about sea creatures with anyone who will listen. Based in Japan, Corinne currently works in medical research and scientific freelance writing!