Scientists have found their candidate for mother of the year in an octopus deep in the Pacific Ocean. Not only did the octopus guard the eggs for four plus years, the animal went without food while waiting on them to hatch.
The perseverance by the octopus has her entering the record books as having the longest known egg-brooding period for any animal. Researchers discussed the time-period in the journal PLOS ONE. Scientists used remote-controlled submarines to monitor the Graneledone boreopacifica, a deep-sea species off the coast of Central California.
Clinging to a rock at a depth of 4,600 feet, the female octopus was able to be easily monitored thanks to distinctive scarring. She kept her 160 translucent eggs free of silt and debris from the oceans depth. The octopus also chased off any would-be predators threatening the eggs.
Without food, the mother octopus gradually lost weight, and its skin became loose and pale. Scientists were amazed at the maternal instinct of the animal. Bruce Robinson of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute talked about the find.
“It’s extraordinary. It’s amazing. We’re still astonished ourselves by what we saw.”
“She was also keeping the eggs free from sediment and was ventilating them by pushing water across them for oxygen exchange. She was taking care of them.”
Researchers watched the mother over the course of 18 dives spanning 53 months. The first dive was during May 2007, and wrapped up in September 2011. Octopus females normally lay a single set of eggs in their lifetime, and die shortly after the eggs hatch. Due to the long brooding time, the hatchlings are not helpless. They emerge as miniature adults, capable of surviving on their own by capturing small prey.
This particular species of octopus measures around 16-inches long, and is pale purple. Living at that depth, temperatures hover around 37 degrees. Not exactly beach weather, but they survive catching anything within their reach. This includes crabs, snails and shrimp.
This female octopus gave up all that to ensure her brood made it into the Pacific Ocean ecosystem.