Octopuses are tortured and eat themselves after mating. Science finally knows why.

Many species of animals die after breeding. But in octopus mothers, this decrease is particularly worrying: In most species, as an octopus’s eggs are about to hatch, it stops eating. She then leaves her protective conversation over her offspring and turns to self-destruction. She can hit herself on a rock, tear her own skin, and even eat pieces of her hands.

Now, researchers have discovered the chemicals that seem to control this deadly frenzy. After an octopus lays eggs, there are changes in the production and use of cholesterol in its body, which in turn increases the production of steroid hormones – a biochemical change that will condemn it. Some of the changes may suggest processes that explain invertebrate longevity in general, said Z. Yan Wang, an assistant professor of psychology and biology at the University of Washington.

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