Written By: Roger T. Hanlon and John W. Forsythe
Sexual cannibalism is rare in the animal kingdom. Although cannibalism is not uncommon in cephalopods, here we report the first documented case of sexual cannibalism. A large female Octopus cyanea was observed continuously for 2.5 days in Palau, Micronesia, when she was out of her den. On the second day, a small male followed and mated her 13 times during 3.5 hours while she continued to forage over 70 m distance. After the 12th mating, she aggressively chased a different small octopus that barely escaped by jetting, inking and swimming upwards. Shortly thereafter, the original small male mated her a 13th time, but subsequently she attacked and suffocated him and spent 2 days cannibalizing him in her den. This sort of intraspecific aggression helps to explain several reports of octopuses mating out in the open, a behaviour that may serve to allow the smaller mate to escape cannibalism.