Most octopus species are semelparous: they die after the first time they reproduce. After mating, female octopuses brood their clutch of eggs, stop feeding, and undergo rapid whole body decline. Then, usually before the eggs even hatch, the octopus dies. This entire behavioral sequence, including death, is reversibly controlled by the optic glands and the neuroendocrine system, termed the “octopus self-destruct system” by early researchers. We study how the nervous system controls reproduction, behavior, and death in both semelparous and iteroparous (multiply reproducing) species of octopuses to uncover mechanisms of aging and longevity in a comparative evolutionary context.

The optic glands (labeled “g. opt”) were termed the “octopus self-destruct system” by J Wodinsky, 1977.