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Kobushime Stories from Ishigaki Island’s “Professor Squid-Octopus”

There must be many organisms in the sea that we would never encounter in our lifetime unless we became divers. Kobushime is one of those, are they not? Because they are located near the Nansei Islands and the Indian Ocean, if you are in the Yaeyama area, you definitely want to check out these sea creatures.

Our cameraman, has only seen Kobushime mating at Ishigaki Island, so perhaps it is a rare occurrence?

However, the guide mentions that most people are satisfied just by being able to see the Kobushime's large and unique spawning style, so he has never been asked deep questions about it.

So then, although I know what it looks like, I dug deep to ask questions about the Kobushime which I was surprisingly unfamiliar with. *The story from here is interwoven with the guide's own theories, so please keep that in mind as you enjoy.

'Mating' is prioritized above fear of people!?

The surprising reason for being able to get so close to the Kobushime.

We found out when filming the Kobushime, that we could get surprisingly close to them.
Not just in our reach, but so close that our masks were about to hit them.

Of course, it will run away if we move too quick, so it is better to approach the position slowly.

So why is it that we can get so close to them?

First of all, in reality, the Kobushime's lifespan is only about 1 to 1.5 years!

It is said that the spawning season is from the beginning of March to the beginning of May, but Kobushime born in this period will die after spawning in May the following year.

In other words, life is too short to be paying attention to humans! (laugh)

It would be a disaster if an opportunity to mate and leave an offspring is missed because they waste time paying attention to or running away from people.

Therefore, the priority is given to intercourse, leading to the conclusion that 'Kobushime can be approached surprisingly close'.

The stronger male does not necessarily get to mate with the female!? The story of a male who was able to mate thanks to a fisherman

The guide mentions that while male Kobushime are known to change color to intimidate each other, 'the male that outlasts the intimidation battle is not necessarily the one that gets to mate with the female.'

He mentions that in the past he has seen several instances where two males were in the middle of intimidating each other, and another male about half their size slid right in and mated with the female.

It seems that the size of individuals differ depending on their birth period and what they eat, but there are male adults that differ in size by over two times.

If you consider that the lifespan is one year and the time of birth is about one month, if it were people, it would be an age difference over 10 years. It makes sense that the individual sizes are so different.

However, the fact that it is not always the strong one that wins, is an interesting aspect of Kobushime's ecology.

When females reject males, it's not because they hate them!?

If it isn't the stronger male that gets to mate with the female, then what type of males do the females accept?

'Well, I think its just the timing.'

'We humans can only observe for the time period that the oxygen tank lasts, which is about 1 hour. But from the looks of it, I feel like it is simply a matter of timing.

When it comes down to it, I think if females wanted to fertilize strong sperm, they would mate with the males that win the intimidation battles. But seeing how they are willing to mate with males that just slide into the scene, I think that it is simply a timing issue for the females, and that 'eggs are prepared''.

So it's the timing! That explains why the females are not particular about mating with the victorious male.

When appealing to females, similar to humans, with 3 fingers!

Similar to the intimidation, when males appeal to the females, they change their body color.

It is said that the somatic cells of Kobushime have preliminarily enumerated color pigments (similar to how a TV displays color), and it uses its eyes to judge opponents and situations, and changes body color accordingly.

It is famously said that if there is a male on one side and a female on the other side, the male side of the body will change to an intimidating color, while the female side of the body would change to a gentle, appealing color. In reality, how is the appealing process conducted?

'When attracting females, it starts by putting its tentacles in front of its face. Next, it uses those tentacles to touch the females face and eye area, and if the female does not shy away, it is a sign that he can proceed with mating.'

Lining up tentacles... Just like a Japanese groom who lines three fingers on a tatami mat to report marriage. Kobushime are suprisingly well-mannered.

The guide, who comes up with so many answers to each question we ask.

It was the first time I ever met someone so familiar with Kobushime.

By the way, I am often asked if there is anything interesting besides squid, (Kobushime is a type of squid), and my answer is 'hmm.. octopus?'

Could it be, are you Professor Squid-Octopus!? (laugh)

Bonus: Octopus mate by holding hands!?

I apologize for repeatedly reverting the subject back to intercourse (laugh), but it is a necessary subject when it comes to ecology, so one more question...

It turns out that octopus' sexual intercourse is about 'holding hands'.

'I too, have seen it once before, but the observation took up the entire diving session...'

'Octopus are nocturnal creatures, so they mate at night. Among the 8 legs, the middle 2 are tentacles, and in order to send sperm in from between the suction cups, one of those tentacles are entered into the female body. Then, to prevent this tentacle from falling loose, the female uses her own tentacle to grab onto the male tentacle. This makes it looks like the two are holding hands.

When I came across them while night diving, it looked as if the two of them were holding hands. When I shined my flashlight toward them, it appeared as if they became embarrassed and tried to swim away, but their hands were still connected, so they were clumsily walking away! (laugh)'

I'd like everyone to see the smile on the guide's face when he talks about mating octopuses!

I have never met anyone that spoke so interestingly about not only squid, but octopus as well.

'Maybe it is because the Kobushime (Sepia Latimanus) themselves are rare so just looking at them is satisfying, but I usually don't get asked too many questions about them. I like sea creatures a lot, so I think I'm more knowledgeable than the average person. At home, I have many books and illustrated guides written by people that work at the aquarium...'

Just talking about this subject, he could not contain his excitement.

When you visit the guide, don't be shy, and ask a ton of questions!

I discovered on the last day of the interview, that he had a wealth of knowledge which I could not manage to write here.

I wish I could have asked more questions.

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