Cephalopods -- which is the H. R. Giger-esque name for squids, octopuses, cuttlefish, and nautiluses etc -- are too much. There is literally too much going on with them and all of it is weird as balls. Look at octopuses, which actually do kind of look like swimming nutsacks. They are older than dinosaurs, they have blue blood, and they have three hearts. That’s already enough material to design three new Star Trek races/Kirk’s bangs-of-the-week, and we still haven’t even gotten to the really bizarre stuff about these creatures, like how…
When you have a near infinite supply of something, you’ll always end up abusing it. (Case in point: onanism.) A more relevant case in point: cephalopod arms. Octopuses not only have eight arms, they can also regrow them, so they honestly don’t care too much about losing limbs, which is just one reason why they never got that into The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. (The other reason was because they felt that Disney was a bunch of cowards for not making Bucky and Sam an official couple.)
Anyway, octopuses regularly rip off their arms for whatever reason. Some of these floating Cthulhu heads will literally disarm themselves to distract a predator so they can escape. Octopuses don’t even have to worry about nicking an artery, as they can apparently close it off to reduce blood loss. This tactic of giving your enemy a hand is often employed by Vampyroteuthis infernalis, the "Vampire Squid from Hell,” which is unhelpfully neither a squid nor a vampire or from hell.
Octopuses usually sever their limbs by biting them off. Some, however, don’t spit it out later. When a cephalopod is bored or stressed out, like when you put them into an aquarium without enough cover, they will sometimes self-cannibalize their own arms, something that anyone trapped in a doctor’s office waiting room without good cell reception can more than relate to. Basically, some octopuses are swallowers and some are spitters, and since we went ahead with this untasteful joke, let’s go for broke and talk about how octopus mating is actually just a form of fingerbanging.
See, in octopuses, one of their tentacles is the penis, a fact that is surprising to anyone except cephalopod specialists and historians of Japanese art. They use that tentacle to deposit packets of sperm into a female, but the problem they run into is the fact that the female is often larger than them and might try to eat them, but not in the fun way. So some males don’t risk it and instead rip off their penis tentacle and give it to the female instead of flowers or whatever. Meaning that, in the world of octopuses, it’s not at all unseemly for a gentleman cephalopod to give a lady cephalopod a gift and tell her to go and screw herself.
You might've assumed that octopuses and squids moved by doing cartwheels or curling and outstretching their limbs in unison, which would technically mean that they swim via squats. But if you’re a gym bro don’t get that squid tattoo just yet, because it turns out that the Spaghetti Monster of the sea skips leg day all the time. Cephalopods sometimes “walk” on the seafloor to conserve energy, but the most common way for them to move is via genuine jet propulsion.
In regular jet propulsion that you’d find on a plane, an engine takes in air from one end, compresses it, then releases it through the other end. This creates force that allows planes to fly/Ted Cruz to flee from his freezing constituents to warmer climates. And speaking of spineless things: this kind of jet propulsion is exactly how some octopuses and squids move, only with water instead of air.
It works like this: cephalopods are basically just heads and feet. That’s literally what their name means (which would also mean that Nintendo's Kirby is technically a cephalopod.) But they have a part that sooorta corresponds to the torso, called the mantle, which is located in the back of the head and holds most of the animals’ organs. Squids and octopuses are able to fill it with water, which can then be released through a tube called a siphon.
Because the siphon is wider on one end, pushing water through it compresses it the same way as pinching the end of a garden hose, allowing the liquid to come out at a great force that propels cephalopods to 25 mph. Those aren’t exactly breakneck speeds, but considering that the human equivalent of that would be farting yourself off the ground, it’s still pretty darn impressive. While jetting, cephalopods can use their arms or small fins on their body to steer them in the right direction. The siphon can also be used to expel ink, which technically makes squids and octopuses the Bond spy cars of the sea.
Imagine you were chased by a giant trying to eat you. A freaky-looking one, too. We’re talking real Attack on Titan type deal. You finally get to cover where the monster can’t reach you, but suddenly the monster’s body turns into an LCD screen. There are all these flashing lights and shapes projecting from its skin. It’s mesmerizing. You start to think that maybe this whole thing was just a viral promotional campaign for an EDM festival or something. You come closer to get a better look. You get eaten. That’s basically how some cuttlefish hunt. For full effect, you'll want to open this in another tab right at the 2-minute mark:
Near all cephalopods, besides nautiluses, can change the color of their skin to blend in with their surroundings, but some of those hentai stars take it to next levels. They are able to not just change color but also project specific patterns to disappear, mimic other lifeforms, or to turn themselves into a gender-bending Two-Face. When a male cuttlefish is out trying to get laid and there are rivals nearby, he’ll project male coloring on the side facing the female, and female coloring on the side facing the rivals. This way, the other cuttlefish will only see two ladies chatting and move on, while in actuality, the first cuttlefish is trying to talk the real lady cuttlefish to invite her over for coffee or to help him destroy Batfish.
Cephalopods can even change the texture of their skin to better resemble rocks or coral as they close in on their prey. Their internal mechanism that allows them to do all that is so ingenious that scientists are now copying it to make energy-saving TV screens, which will use less than 1% of the power it currently takes for you to watch Breaking Bad and totally miss the point of the story by hating on Skyler. (She was the only normal person on the entire show. That was her thing!)
Also, according to new research, some cephalopods have gene sequences in their skin that are usually only found in retinas. Scientists still aren’t totally sure what it means but some suspect it may mean that cephalopods SEE WITH THEIR SKIN. Most of their bodies might in fact be one giant alien eyeball. Be sure to remember this the next time you’re eating calamari.
We mentioned before that octopuses need stimulation or else they might start taking nail-biting to its horrifying Clive Barker-inspired extreme. Appropriately, one of the ways to keep an octopus happy is with a puzzle box.
Caretakers at the New England Aquarium often prepare these puzzle boxes for their new cephalopod arrivals. The box is typically clear acrylic with some kind of locking mechanism and a tasty crab inside. The goal is to get the octopuses to open the box and feast on its terrified inhabitant because what’s a fun puzzle box for some is torture hell for others. (We’re not consciously trying to make this entire description all Hellraiser, it’s happening organically.) The lock is usually some kind of latch but it’s actually more complicated than a childproof lock. It takes a certain amount of brain power to solve it, and doing so apparently keeps these wiggly pre-takoyaki mellow.
This might have something to do with the size of their brains, which are some of the biggest among all invertebrates. Cephalopods may have also developed higher intelligences thanks to a process called RNA editing, and it apparently could one day lead to better treatments for all sort of diseases. So, in summary, cephalopods have magic in their genes and we’re working on ways of injecting it into ourselves because scientists have never seen a movie.
Female octopuses mate like how vitriolic internet losers think human women mate. The cephalopods spend most of their life in solitude, selfishly focusing on themselves instead of some nice guy’s carefully curated hentai figurine collection, but when it’s Bone Time, they go wild. Girl octopuses will mate with as many males as they can find, collecting their sperm packets left and right. When they’re done, they choose to impregnate themselves with the Chaddiest of all Chad octopuses to ensure their offspring’s survival. At least that’s what scientists think the octopuses like doing. What happens next, though, is 100% verified, horrifying fact.
After an octopus lays her eggs, she gives up on life. She stays with the eggs until they hatch, not moving away from the nest or even eating. As the days pass, the octopus mother slowly starves to death (though some captive cephalopods will occasionally snack on their own arms during this process), all to ensure that her children survive. It’s the ultimate act of love. Or, you know, cruel evolution. See, this behavior is actually all due to secretions from the cephalopod equivalent of the pituitary gland. Laying eggs triggers them, shutting off the animal’s digestive and salivary glands. So it’s not that octo-moms don’t want to eat. They’re physically unable to eat because their evolution-optimized bodies decided that once they have reproduced, they’re no longer needed and so they start to turn off all the lights.
In experiments, surgically removing the offending gland made the octopus mom abandon her nest and start eating. From an evolutionary stand point, this makes perfect sense. Octopuses can lay thousands of eggs, and they technically never stop growing, so without a system in place to cull their population, all the oceans would be JUST giant octopuses, just like ancient Earth used to be untold piles of wood. And that’s when they’d come for humans. 90 percent of the entire world would scream in terror, and like 10 percent of you would be really into it.
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