Episode 153 – Blanket Octopus: Let the Octopus Win

“…Today we’re talking about a cephalopod that wears a beautiful gown. But more on that later.”

The ocean is home to many a strange and wondrous creature, but few are so strange as the blanket octopus. Worthy of its name, the blocktopus drifts and flutters with dazzling colors across the pelagic seas. But unfurling your snuggie has consequences in the deep blue, so the blanket octopus needs to have some improvised weapons at its disposal. But that’s just how you survive here in LDT.

Description of the Blanket Octopus

The blanket octopus has a high degree of sexual dimorphism in terms of size and look. They both have the typical octopus head and arm shape with arms growing to double their total length. Males have one longer arm, but more on that later.

Four of the eight female legs are webbed and that webbing can be longer than the length over her body.

Like other octopuses, they come in many colors and can change colors for camouflage. 

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words measure up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new Measure Up intro so that means we get to hear from an animal and Carlos has to guess what it is.

  1. Alpaca
  2. Deer
  3. Llama
  4. Camel

Female Length

  • 2 meters
  • How many female octopuses go into the length of a galleon?
  • Hint: The São João Baptista, also called the Botafogo, was a portuguese war ship which was considered the biggest in the world at the time in the 16th century. The ship is famous for its bombardment of the La Goletta, in the conquest of Tunis in 1535.
  • 24.3 blanket octopuses. Galleons were around 160 feet for 500 tons. The Botafogo was 1,000 tons.

Male Length

  • 2.4 cm
  • How many male octopuses go into the automobile mileage record?
  • Hint: The record is held by Irvin Gordon, of Long Island, in a 1966 Volvo P1800. A retired teacher, he bought the car in 1966 for $4,150. He loves to drive and said he would drive to Montreal or Maine just for dinner. He said the car has never broken down or failed to start because he followed care directions like changing the oil after certain mileage. Gordon predicted that the car would outlast him in the summer before his death in 2018.
  • 217,949,233,392 octopuses. Gordon drove the car 3,250,257 miles.

Fast Facts about the Blanket Octopus

The reason for the vast difference in size between the males and females is reproduction. Larger females that can carry more large eggs. Large eggs eliminate the threat from small egg thieves and larger numbers of eggs increase the chance that some will make it to adulthood. 

While most octopuses start as tiny plankton that travel with the currents until they get big enough to settle down on the ocean floor, in reefs, or among rocks, blankets continue to wander the seas into adulthood.

Forsaking the shelter of rock caves comes with its dangers. Sea nomads are vulnerable to predation from the large animals that dominate the open ocean, including dolphins, blue sharks, billfish, orcas, and tuna. However, the blanket boys and girls know it’s dangerous to go alone and take a few defense mechanisms. Like Linus, females never leave home without their trusty blanket. They’re webbed arms can drag behind them like the flowing train of a gown, increasing their appearance of their size. Small predators need not apply.

The blanket can be rolled up and suddenly unfurled for maximum jump scare potential. But if a predator is not threatened by this caped crusader, she can do something else with it. Evidence suggests that they can detach the blanket like a lizard’s tail to confuse and placate attackers. This skill is in addition to other octopus-style defenses like ink sacks and color changing skin.

Major Fact: Let the Blanket Octopus Win

Octopuses are famous for their methods of defending themselves. Some use camouflage, most use ink, others even mimic their enemies. But the chewbacctopus has a penchant for ripping arms out of sockets.

It uses arms in two different ways.

First, the males—those poor tiny little fellas—to reproduce, they’ll put their “genetic material” into a specialized arm called a hectocotylus and rips it off to give to the female. She can then use it to fertilize her eggs at her leisure.

Second, the females will find Portugese man o’ wars (men o’ war?) and rip off their arms. They’re actually immune to man o’ war venom, so they’ll use those arms as defensive weapons.

It will attack man o’ war arms its four dorsal arms. Researchers aren’t sure if chewbacctopus uses the arms for offense as well. It could use the man o’ war venom to catch prey.

Ending: So spread your blankets, use arms to your advantage, and save your hectocotylus for someone special like chewbacctopus here in LDT.

Thanks

Thank you to Casy for creating our theme song. To hear more of Casy’s music search Casy Michelle on Youtube

Thank you to Brian for creating the episode art. See more of Brian’s art at xNamaru on Instagram or Twitter.