Tiny Octopi Hatch at Mote Aquarium

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Check out these tiny Ocotopus hatchlings at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Florida!

Octopi reproduction is really quite interesting. Males have a specially adapted arm, called a hectocotylus, which they use to transfer sperm packets called spermatorphores into to a female's mantle cavity. Octopi lead short, solitary lives of one to two years; the pair do not remain together, and males die within a few months of mating.

2 octopus.jpgPhoto credit: Mote Marine Lab & Aquarium

A female can store the sperm in her mantle until she is ready to fertilize and lay her eggs. A female may lay hundreds of thousands of eggs, which she anchors to a hard surface in a protected den.

After eggs are laid, she devotes the rest of her life to caring for them. She will guard the eggs and keep water circulating around them so that the developing offspring receive enough oxygen. The mother stops eating after her eggs are laid, and she will die soon after they hatch. 

Newly-hatched octopi are called larvae, and will develop into hatchlings or fry. The newborn octopi, though tiny, are independant and require no more maternal care. Survival in the ocean is often a matter of luck, and very few of these offpspring will survive to adulthood— which is why so many eggs are laid to begin with. 

Thousands of Giant Pacific Octopus Eggs Hatch at Alaska SeaLife Center

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A wondrous spectacle of nature began unfolding on March 6 at the Alaska SeaLife Center: LuLu, a Giant Pacific Octopus, has been tenderly guarding her brood of eggs, which she began laying in March 2012. Now, over a year later, tiny hatchlings known as paralarvae have begun to emerge, and the baby Octopuses are captivating visitors and staff. 

LuLu laid eggs throughout the spring of 2012 after an encounter the previous fall with Felix, a male Giant Pacific Octopus. A female will lay up to 30,000 eggs only once in her lifetime, and she will brood and guard the eggs until they hatch. A male may mate with several females but will expire following this reproductive period. Lulu's lifespan will end when the last of her eggs hatch.

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ASLC_2013_Lulu Paralarvae

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Photo Credit:  Alaska SeaLife Center

"LuLu is not feeding at this time but continues to groom and fan the eggs as attentive Octopus mothers do in this final reproductive phase of their lives," said Richard Hocking, the Center’s aquarium curator. 

While other Octopus species are frequently raised from eggs in aquariums, that is not the case with the Giant Pacific Octopus. Only once, in the mid-1980s, has a Giant Pacific Octopus been successfully reared from egg to maturity in an aquarium. Giant Pacific Octopuses are difficult to rear due to the delicate nature of the newly-emerged paralarvae and their unique nutritional needs. To increase the odds of raising the hatchlings to adulthood, aquarium staff are harvesting both wild and cultured zooplankton to feed the paralarval Octopuses and have also constructed special rearing tanks.

In the wild, the tiny hatchlings, which are about the size of a grain of rice, swim toward the ocean surface and can spend several weeks or even months drifting in the plankton-rich water until they are large enough to hunt in the depths. Once they settle to the bottom, juveniles take refuge in crevices and under rocks, where they are protected from predators while they feed and mature. Octopuses eat crustaceans and mollusks along with other bivalves, snails, fish and smaller Octopuses.

As adults, Giant Pacific Octopuses live in the cold waters of the northern Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Canada, Alaska, Japan, and Siberia at depths of over 200 feet (65 m).  Adults attain an arm span of up to 14 feet (4.3 m) and weigh about 33 pounds (15 kg).  They are considered the largest of all Octopus species.   Little is known about these animals in the wild, so they are not protected by international treaties.

Baby Octopus Explosion! (On Video)

Baby Octopus Vulgaris at the California Academy of Sciences

Shortly after being put on exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences, this Caribbean Octopus vulgaris took up residence inside a glass bottle, on full view for adoring fans. Just as quickly, it moved back under a rock and started denning, and laying eggs. While eggs being laid in captivity is generally an exciting event, this particular species, like many but not all octopus, stops eating after it lays eggs and dies soon after they hatch which tends to put a damper on the joyous occasion. The biologist responsible for their care, Richard Ross, caught the hatching of the eggs from start to finish on film, and describes it as a waterfall flowing upwards toward the water's surface. Now, Ross faces the difficult task of trying to support thousands of tiny hatchlings. This species is "small egged" meaning it produces large numbers of very small planktonic 'paralarvae' which are notoriously difficult to feed and raise. The adult female and hatchlings will be on display for as long as possible in the Staff Picks area of Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences.

Yup, those little guys are what you think they are. Lots of baby octopuses!  Lots and lots of Baby Octopus Vulgaris at the California Academy of SciencesVideo and stills taken by Rich Ross, California Academy of Sciences

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