Male octopuses don’t typically wine and also dine prospective mates. However prior to mating, both males and females carry out seem to it is in in the mood for one date-worthy food: crab, according to brand-new research published online in the journal of Shellfish Research.

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Male octopuses don"t commonly wine and dine prospective mates. However prior to mating, both males and also females perform seem to it is in in the mood for one date-worthy food: crab, according to brand-new research released online in the Journal the Shellfish Research.

Scientists studied two-spot octopuses (Octopus bimaculatus) in the just of Los Angeles in the Gulf the California in Mexico because that nine months to check out what they to be eating—and when.

Studying octopuses" diet preferences, however, can be a tricky endeavor. Scientists have long relied ~ above counting and classifying shells and also bones in an octopus"s stomach or about its den. Yet as the researchers of the new record point out, "only food with hard pieces can be identified." In the instance of ingested animals, the identification is regularly hampered due to the fact that "the mechanical activity of the beak" breaks down countless would-be calcified clues. And also for crustaceans, such as large crabs and lobster, the octopus have the right to pre-digest the animal tissue within the exoskeleton prior to slurping the out—leaving the traces of the meal to be carried away by the currents.

The other option is to send researchers down listed below the tide to watch octopuses actually consuming their dinners. This "gives a much better approximation come the feeing habits," the authors note. However it is of course a little costly.

So these researchers took a combined approach and also did all three. They recorded 261 two-spot octopuses throughout the research period. The ready-to-lay females to be the biggest, measuring approximately nine and also a half inches and also weighing approximately seven and a half pounds.

For the final analysis, the researchers uncovered traces of prey from 76 different animals. It transforms out the octopuses like to feeding on their own (broadly defined) kind, v mollusks being among the most common prey. Arthropods (such as crustaceans) were also common, as were bivalves (including clams, organize the casino), echiura (spoon worms) and gastropods (think escargot). The favorite octopus meals in this study were dirt crabs (xanthidae) and chocolate clams (Megapitaria squalida). In the springtime, the mud crabs dominated these octopuses" diets, the researchers report. And male"s chose an ext clams as their an additional food whereas females went because that the worms.

Growing octopuses wanted bivalves. And ready-to-lay females were the most likely to be broadening their diet to include an ext fish, echinoderms (such together starfish and also urchins) and, yes, other octopuses. The capacity to target particular animals together a "specialist predator," the researcher note, "can it is in a role of the octopuses" ability to discover individually and also which prey are much more available or found much more easily during foraging." and in the just of Los Angeles, this octopuses are presented with plenty of prey options. So, their preference for good, meaty meals provides sense, the authors continue. "When food density is high, predators specialization on good-quality prey and ignore prey with lower food value."

But octopus food selections aren"t just a curiosity. In addition to help us find out what to feed these animals in captivity, "octopuses play vital role in the marine setting as both predators and prey," the authors note. And understand one more piece the that complicated web is crucial step in help to keep it.

See more: How To Breathe While Doing Sit-Ups, When Doing Sit

Learn more about just how octopuses tidy up after your feasts--and regularly take home food for later--in Octopus! The many Mysterious biology In the Sea.

Illustration courtesy of Ivan Phillipsen

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Katherine Harmon Courage is an award-winning freelance journalist, editor, and also author based in Colorado.Follow Katherine Harmon vessel on Twitter