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Octopus Surprise: Stylets

June 19, 2012

by Trish Weaver

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is every now and then someone brings or sends me something I have never seen before. This week’s wonders were octopus stylets.

Photo of stylets of Muusoctopus longibrachus akambei

Paired stylets of Muusoctopus longibrachus akambei. Specimens are ~5cm long

Bet you’re thinking what in the world are octopus stylets? Are they little enclosures for small octopus? Trendy clothing with small cephalopod designs? Though both seem like reasonable answers, unfortunately both are wrong.

Octopus stylets are rudimentary shells found within the soft tissues of some groups of octopus (not all octopus have them). They are paired (left and right), serve as support for head retractor muscles and it’s not every day one receives them in the mail.

Photo of stylets of Enteroctopus megalocyathus

Stylets of Enteroctopus megalocyathus. Specimen is ~6cm long

Want to know how old your octopus is but are too embarrassed to ask? Stylets have growth lines just like tree rings. You could count them. Of course doing so would kill your octopus.

These stylets are from extant octopuses. A colleague of mine in the Falklands sent them to me along with some very cool squid pens. All will be the subject of a really exciting project we are just starting. I like to call it better living through biochemistry.

Photo of octopus stylets and squid pens

Some of the varieties of octopus stylets and squid pens my colleague sent to me

Stay tuned and “Remember forewarned is forearmed. I suppose an octopus is twice as well off?” —Walt Kelly

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One Comment leave one →
  1. June 20, 2012 10:50 am

    Reblogged this on NC Museum of Natural Sciences Blogs and commented:

    By Trish Weaver, Collections Manager for Geology & Paleontology

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