Marine Biology

, Volume 155, Issue 1, pp 91–103 | Cite as

Reversal and transfer of spermatophores by Octopus vulgaris and O. hummelincki

  • Jerome WodinskyEmail author
Original Paper


Copulatory behavior in the octopus consists of a patterned series of movements whose individual functions are not well understood. Observations and experiments on mating in Octopus vulgaris and O. hummelincki from Bimini, Bahamas and Haiti were made over a number of years in the laboratory. The study reveals how the male octopus reverses its spermatophore prior to transferring it to the female. The male’s terminal organ (penis) extrudes the sperm end of the spermatophore as it exits from Needham’s sac up to the cap or filament thread and then, holding onto the cap thread, inserts the ejaculatory end of the spermatophore into the groove of the hectocotylus, thus reversing it. It is hypothesized that the primary function of the cap or filament thread, one part of the spermatophore, is to be a handle by which the reversal and transfer is accomplished. The siphon is merely a conduit through which the terminal organ functions and plays no role whatsoever in either the reversal of the spermatophore or in its insertion into the groove. The stimulus to which the male orients to find the groove of the hectocotylus is the apex of the retracted interbrachial membrane between the third and fourth right arms, which bears a fixed spatial relationship to the origin of the groove. A number of deviations from the successful transfer process, which represent loss of sperm from the reproductive process, are illustrated. Despite these deviations, the delicately balanced integration of the various movements serves to transfer the spermatophore to the female to ensure reproductive success.


Sexual Behavior Ventral Side Deep Breath Mantle Cavity Copulatory Experience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I gratefully thank Joel Cohen, Jean Fraser, Barbara Gruenthal, Mark Jacquin, David Lewkowitz, Jennifer Mather, Nancy Sack, Gayle Schectman, David Segal, Nedra Shulkin, and Dr. James Goldberg for assistance in various phases of this research. I thank the New England aquarium for its generous supply of filtered seawater. I thank Harvey Wang for Figures 1, 2, and 3. I thank Drs. Philip Zeigler and Peter Moller for their helpful comments on the manuscript. I thank Keren Klein and Phil Gnatowski for preparation of the manuscript. I also thank the reviewers of Marine Biology for their detailed, helpful comments on the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, MS 062Brandeis UniversityWalthamUSA

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