‘Octomom’ sets egg-brooding record

A deep-sea octopus is observed guarding the same clutch of eggs for nearly 4.5 years

DEVOTED MOM  This deep-sea octopus is settled over her eggs on the side of a rock face in the Monterey Submarine Canyon. Scientists observed her brooding the same clutch of eggs for nearly four and a half years.

© 2007 MBARI

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The deep ocean has spawned a new record: the longest egg-brooding period. In April 2007, Bruce Robison of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, Calif., and colleagues sent a remote-operated vehicle down 1,397 meters (4,583 feet) into the Monterey Submarine Canyon. There they saw a deep-sea octopus (Graneledone boreopacifica) making its way toward a stony outcrop. One month later, the scientists spotted the same octopus, which they dubbed ‘Octomom,’ on the rock with a clutch of 155 to 165 eggs. The researchers returned to the site 18 times in total. Each time, there she was with her developing eggs.

Most female octopuses lay only one clutch of eggs, staying with the eggs constantly and slowly starving to death while protecting them from predators and keeping them clean. When the eggs hatch, the female dies.

The scientists report July 30 in PLOS ONE that the octopus was observed on her eggs for 53 months, until September 2011, the longest brooding period of any known animal.

This video follows the deep-sea octopus dubbed “Octomom” as she brooded her eggs for more than 4.5 years. She may be gone now, but her hatchlings live on thanks to their mother’s care. Credit: MBARI/YouTube

Bethany was previously the staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

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