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.
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
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.