Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Mighty Octopus


On the Reading Pile: I just finished The Last Book in the Universe. I assigned it to my middle graders. It's a post-apocalyptic tale about an unlikely troupe of heroes: an epileptic pre-teen, an crazy old man, an abandoned child who only knows one word, and a utopian princess. It was pretty good. The subject matter is a little advanced for anyone below 5th grade.

Next I'm reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I picked it up from the library because B&F recommended it. Love its website.

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When asked why she was a writer, Susan Sontag said it was because she wanted "every kind of life. And the writer's life seemed the most inclusive."

Right on, Susan. Writer's can live all lives! And even ones that don't exist.

One of the great things about being a writer is that it gives me an excuse to spend great hunks of time looking up fascinating tidbits all in the name of research. There's nothing that isn't worth knowing. Take for instance, what I learned today. I needed to know how octopuses reproduced.

Check this out:

When octopuses reproduce, males use a specialized arm called a hectocotylus to insert spermatophores (packets of sperm) into the female's mantle cavity. The hectocotylus, usually the third right arm, detaches (!) from the male during copulation. Males die within a few months after mating. In some species, the female octopus can keep the sperm alive inside her for weeks until her eggs are mature.

After they have been fertilized, the female lays about 200,000 eggs. The female hangs these eggs in strings from the ceiling of her lair, or individually attaches them to the substratum depending on the species. The female cares for the eggs, guarding them against predators, and gently blowing currents of water over them so that they get enough oxygen. The female does not eat during the roughly one-month period spent taking care of the unhatched eggs.

At around the time the eggs hatch, the mother dies and the young larval octopuses spend a period of time drifting in clouds of plankton, where they feed on copepods, larval crabs and larval starfish until they are ready to sink down to the bottom of the ocean, where the cycle repeats itself.

I had no idea! You can't make stuff like this up! I'm going to have to get some mileage out of this information.

Oh, yeah... back to my writing...




1 comment:

WinterRose said...

Oh wow! That's interesting. And... kinda gross? lol. It's also sad how the male dies right after planting his packets of sperm, and then the female dies right after the eggs hatch. But I guess... that's all they were meant to do? Copulate... and then copulate some more? Hrm. Oh, and I also wonder about that third arm thing... when people eat octopus, does that arm get eaten? (eewwwww) =P