Meet the octopus with a light-up mouth

Octopuses have it tough when it comes to finding love. The oceans are big, lonely and very, very dark. To get around this problem, females of the species Bolitaena pygmaea have a glowing ring around their mouths that brings all the boys to the yard.

The light-producing organ gives off a yellowish glow, which must be quite a sight for potential mates in the deep-ocean dark. But scientists speculate that the mating game for B. pygmaea is more complex than simply searching for a stranger somewhere in the night. The presence of males seems first to draw females to the area. This might be accomplished by chemical signals released from the males’ extra-large salivary glands. Only once the females are in the general vicinity do they seem to draw in the males by flashing their alluring beacon.

Keeping this bright light dark most of the time might also be a wise survival strategy—and not just to avoid unwanted suitors. A constant glow could risk catching the attention of predators. And with total mantle lengths less than five centimeters, these tiny octopuses have many (bigger) hungry animals to hide from. Although the unusual yellow wavelength her photophore emits might also help avoid detection by other animals. [Octopus Chronicles]

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