Previous: Chicago Adventure, Part Six: The Spice of Life
Next: Chicago Adventure, Part Eight: How to be an Insect



View count:127,056
Last sync:2024-04-28 15:45


Citation formatting is not guaranteed to be accurate.
MLA Full: "Chicago Adventure, Part Seven: Octopus Sex." YouTube, uploaded by thebrainscoop, 22 July 2013,
MLA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2013)
APA Full: thebrainscoop. (2013, July 22). Chicago Adventure, Part Seven: Octopus Sex [Video]. YouTube.
APA Inline: (thebrainscoop, 2013)
Chicago Full: thebrainscoop, "Chicago Adventure, Part Seven: Octopus Sex.", July 22, 2013, YouTube, 06:27,
Dr. Janet Voight settles the eternal debate about the plural form of "octopus," and becomes my new favorite person.

Want more of Dr. Voight?! Check out her other videos and media appearances!


Partials - also see Field Revealed outtakes


The Brain Scoop is hosted and written by:
Emily Graslie

Created By:
Hank Green

Directed, Edited, and Scored by:
Michael Aranda

Assistant Editor:
Stefan Chin

Thanks to Martina Šafusová, Diana Raynes, Barbara Velazquez, Hervé Saint Raymond, Alex Austin, Tony Chu, John-Alan Pascoe, and Seth Bergenholtz for taking the time to transcribe this episode! WOOOOOO

This episode is brought to you by a ridiculously generous contribution from: Heather Hsu.

Now I'm just making words up.


The Chicago Field Museum is one of the largest and most respected natural history museums in the world. Join me as we go behind the scenes! Dun dun duuun!

Janet: Would you like a chair?

Emily: Sure. Is there one?

Janet: Uh, grab that red one.

Emily: I'll grab the... oooh!

Janet: We know more about Mars anymore than we know about the deep sea, and yet we go there looking' for life and the deep sea is full of life and we don't know what's there.

Emily: That's awesome.

(on screen, intro of Janet Voight, Associate Curator of Invertebrates)

Janet: One example is this little octopus, it lives in hydrothermal vents on the East Pacific Rise at depths of lets say, 2400 to 2600 meters.

(Janet takes octopus out of jar and turns it over, showing it)

Emily: Wow

Janet: And it, apparently it eats the stuff that's produced by chemosynthesis , so they're white.

Emily: What is coming out of its head? What is that? Why does it look like a cone head?

(Janet, motioning to each part of the octopus)

Janet: You know, your normal octopuses, this part tends to be rounded, 

Emily: Mhm.

Janet: but that's one of the really weird things about this thing, its head actually, its brain lies between the eyes, which are right there. This part, which some people say look like a nose,

Emily: (laughs)

Janet: is actually its guts.

Emily: Eww!

Janet: Well, you know,

Emily: Well I mean

Janet: Well, you know that's where it's at.

Emily: I mean, that's kinda cool, but

Janet: I've opened this; I've slit the back part of the mantle, and I've cut some things so I can look at the insides. I can count the number of gill lamellae here, and here on the other side,

Emily: Mhmm

Janet: And these black spots, these are...

Emily: Wait-

Janet: ...actually the hearts that pump the blood though...

Emily: So-

Janet: ...the gills.

Emily: It has more than one heart.

Janet: It's got three.

Emily: It's got three hearts?? What do you do with three hearts when you're that small though?

Janet: Well, when you think about it like our right heart just pumps the blood to our lungs,

Emily: Uhuh

Janet: they have one heart for each of the gills, so a right and a left gill heart.

Emily: But then what's the third heart?

Janet: Systemic heart.

Emily: Ooh...

Janet: that pumps the blood from the gills

Emily: Ok...

Janet: everywhere else

Emily: So, oh, they just like break up the roles.

Janet: Yeah! Why is this so pointy, I don't know, but this is the testes. Octopus males, and females, come to think of it, only have one gonad. 

Emily: M'kay...weird...ok (laughs)

Janet: And males only have one of what's historically called a penis, but it's not actually...

Emily: (laughs) "historically called a penis"?

Janet: Well, you think of a penis as being like an intermittent organ

Emily: Yeah

Janet: But here, octopuses don't put their penis inside the female. Octopuses transfer sperm by a modified arm tip.

Emily: What? No way.

Janet: Way.

Emily: Just on one arm? Or on all the arms?

Janet: Just the one.

Emily: Okay. They just have one special arm.

Janet: One special arm.

Emily: Wow, that's very... unusual. How do you discover these kinds of things?

Janet: Well if you watch octopuses, sometimes you'll see this arm, the right third one, is carried differently. And those guys are protecting this arm, 'cause it's only the one. What happens is, that the terminal organ here, inside the mantle, releases a packet of sperm that's actually a long thin tube through the funnel and it's grabbed right at the base of this arm by this extra groove.

Emily: Oh.

Janet: And this extra groove moves that long, skinny tube to the tip of that arm, what's called the ligula, and that arm, when they are in use, copulating, is inserted inside the mantle of the female, and nobody knows exactly what happens, we think it's castrated...

Emily: Well, I mean, I think I can, yeah, deduce...

Janet: (laughs) But it's probably inserted into the oviduct. And what's really cooler than that is, I think, all of the coleoid, cephalopods, and that's the cephalopods other than nautilus who are alive have the same type of spermatophore that inside is a hyperosmotic fluid that-

Emily: Wait, I don't, what is that? (laughs) What are you talking about?

Janet: (laughs) It's full of all sorts of chemicals

Emily: Okay.

Janet: that actually make it the equivalent of hypersaline.

Emily: Oh! Okay.

Janet: And you know about osmosis, right?

Emily: Yeah.

Janet: That water will move in to make the concentrations even.

Emily: Mhm.

Janet: In this spermatophore, the water moves in as soon as the male releases it. The pressure builds on this long, skinny tube with a huge amount of surface area and low volume

Emily: Okay.

Janet: And then it opens and discharges into the female.

Emily: Weird.

Janet: And it's got just elaborate stuff in there.

Emily: So it's kind of like one of those party poppers.

Janet: Oh girl, you should be doin' porn. (laughs)

Emily: (laughs)

Janet: Party poppers? Talkin' about sperm delivery!

Emily: I mean...

Janet: I mean!

Emily: I, well, I'm just tryin' to relate it to something I understand! Jeez, I'm not-

Janet: Now these are animals who live in the deep sea. If it turns out you only meet one male in your life who's able to give you sperm. You pass up that chance

Emily: You're out of luck.

Janet: You're not havin' any babies.

Emily: Yeah, wow.

Janet: So they go ahead and copulate. They save the sperm, they store it.

Emily: Weird! For when they're ready?

Janet: For when they're ready! The females will sit and brood their eggs for as long it takes those eggs to develop and then about the time the eggs develop, the females, who haven't eaten since they produced the eggs, die.

Emily: oh...oh. Well, what a bummer! Oh, now we're gonna look at baby octopus. Ah, uh, is it octopodes?

Janet: It's octopuses.

Emily: Octopuses. Oh. There's been a lot of contention about this where I'm from.

Janet: It's because of the way the root is constructed,

Emily: Okay.

Janet: And you'll have to forgive me, it's either Latin or Greek that you don't make plural by adding an "I". 

Emily: Hmm.

Janet: It's the one that you just add the "-es". 

Janet: This is an octopus hatchling.

Emily: That's a pretty big hatchling.

Janet: It's 55 millimeters.

Emily: So it's just born and ready to go.

Janet: It's ready to go, and in fact, there's signs of reproductive maturity.

Emily: Nuh-uh! These guys are pretty sweet.

Janet: They're amazing.

Emily: I didn't really realize. And I've eaten some and I, you know, never even realized. Now, I feel really kind of strange about that.

Janet: Well, I mean, cows are pretty cool.

Janet: Is that a wrap?

Michael: I think so.

Janet: Alright.

Michael: I just, what can you tell me about this species? (hands Janet a toy octopus)

Emily: (laughs)