(Having eight arms is a boon for multi-taskers.) But even a watchful eye and eight strong arms can't guarantee that an aggressive guard won't be cuckolded especially given the sneaky tactics employed by some smaller males ...
Smaller male octopuses sometimes use a sneaky strategy to get their girl: female impersonation.
While a large male guards a female in her den, displaying its telltale dark stripes that advertise its maleness, a smaller male might try to sneak a private rendezvous with the female by swimming low to the ground, hiding its masculine stripes and camouflaging itself, as females often do.
Long assumed to be loners, at least one octopus is now known to lead a complex love life.
Last month, biologists Christine Huffard, Roy Caldwell, and Farnis Boneka reported on one of the first long term studies of octopus mating behavior in the wild.
What they found out about the social life of the Indonesian octopus Abdopus aculeatus is the stuff of daytime television: jealousy, brawls, betrayal, sneaking around behind one another's backs if they had backs, that is and, a soap-opera favorite, the open-ended question of paternity.
The researchers discovered that males of this species are picky, preferentially bestowing their conjugal attentions on large females, and will guard a single female for up to 10 days (or more), mating with her frequently and fighting off other beaus that come calling sometimes while still engaged in mating!
The smallest males of one marine isopod species make up for their small size with heavy investment in sperm.
These little crustaceans sneak into the sponge commandeered as a love nest by a larger male and then dive bomb the mating couple, releasing a cloud of sperm at the critical moment.So while octopus cross-dressing may seem strange to us, it is just one example of a commonly employed strategy.The sneaking male hides behind a rock, extends his mating arm to the female, and, if lucky, accomplishes his mission. Don't worry about me I'm just a female octopus passing through") can work a bit too well: the researchers saw a guarding male set his sights on the sneaker male octopus passing though his territory and try to mate with "her." Why would a male change his stripes (literally), sneak around, and risk the unwelcome amorous advances of another male? All this guarding, aggression, repeat mating, and sneaking can be traced to one factor: paternity who gets more genes into the next generation.Sexual selection favors any gene, anatomical structure, or behavior no matter how bizarre that provides a reproductive advantage.And animals have evolved some doozies when it comes to sneaky mating behavior: Small dung beetles play the milkman calling at the back door.They excavate a side entrance into the tunnel system guarded by a larger dominant beetle, mate with the female chambered there, and try to slip away undetected.