Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Ontogeny of Defense : Does Life History Affect Predator Response Behavior in the Pygmy Octopus, Octopus Bocki?


Organisms experience physiological and ecological changes during ontogenesis, and studies have shown that such changes have an impact on behavior over the life cycle. However, little is known about how octopus behavior changes during ontogeny. The pygmy octopus, Octopus bocki (Adam 1941), expresses differences in chromatophore development and mantle length between developmental stages. These changes may be important in predator defense, therefore I hypothesized that predator response behavior also changes over the life cycle. Timed interactions between an octopus and a fish predator were used to compare the behaviors and color displays exhibited by three different size categories of O. bocki; juvenile, sub-adult, and adult. Color display diversity was analyzed using the Shannon-Weiner diversity index. The analysis revealed a negative correlation between color display diversity and size during predator interactions, supporting the hypothesis that behavior changes over the life cycle. Counter-intuitively color display diversity decreases while chromatophore development increases. To broaden the context in which behavior was examined, interactions between adult O. bocki were used to investigate how adults use color displays. The number of color/texture combinations was graphed to compare displays expressed during predator interactions with those expressed during intraspecific interactions. A Wilcoxon test revealed that adult O. bocki used significantly more color and texture displays during intraspecific interactions than during predator interactions. I concluded that adult octopuses use color displays for communication rather than predator defense and that these displays change during ontogenesis.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View