Toy Gi­ant

From refugee to bil­lion­aire... How Manny Stul grew a global em­pire

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - By Ricky French

Aselfie with a randy oc­to­pus was the last thing Matty Smith ex­pected while div­ing off Syd­ney this month. He’d been shoot­ing weedy sead­rag­ons with his new fish­eye lens when he came across this male occy crawl­ing along the open seabed – a most un­usual be­hav­iour for these an­i­mals, which tend to hide in crevices in day­time. Things got weirder when, spot­ting its own re­flec­tion in the 25cm-wide lens dome, it lunged for the cam­era and couldn’t be per­suaded to let go for “two or three min­utes”, Smith says. (Top tip: never get into a wrestling match with an oc­to­pus, they have four times as many arms as you.) His best guess as to what was go­ing on? It had seen its re­flec­tion as a po­ten­tial mate – this was the peak of the breed­ing sea­son – or per­haps a sex­ual ri­val, and come to in­ves­ti­gate.

The Com­mon Syd­ney Oc­to­pus, de­spite the or­di­nary name, is a sin­gu­lar crea­ture. It has three hearts, and blue blood, and can change the tone and tex­ture of its skin in or­der to blend into its sur­round­ings. When it needs to move quickly it uses jet propul­sion. If it loses an arm in a fight it’ll sim­ply grow an­other one. Its saliva con­tains pow­er­ful tox­ins and enzymes that both paral­yse its prey – mol­luscs and crabs, mostly – and dis­solve its flesh. And when it comes to sex things get re­ally strange, says oc­to­pus ex­pert Dr Mark Nor­man, Chief Con­ser­va­tion Sci­en­tist with Parks Vic­to­ria. The males are “sneaky maters” that like to do it at arm’s length – lit­er­ally. They’ll si­dle up to a fe­male and use a mod­i­fied arm called a hec­to­coty­lus to trans­fer a sperm packet to her, “al­most like a hand­shake”, Nor­man says. “It’s like he’s ask­ing, ‘Is it OK if I do this?’” There’s a good rea­son for such cau­tion: im­me­di­ately af­ter sex, the fe­male will of­ten try to sub­due her suitor and de­vour him.

You’ll be glad to know this par­tic­u­lar oc­to­pus, af­ter wast­ing his time with the cam­era, found him­self a gal: later in the dive, Smith spot­ted the pair un­der a rock ledge, mat­ing. So it’s a happy end­ing! Un­less she ate him alive af­ter­wards, ob­vi­ously.

Pho­tog­ra­phy Matty Smith

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.