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Octomum

By Matt Lind, August 2014
Octomum

Octomom Brooded Her Eggs for Record-Breaking Four-and-a-Half Years

Photo credit: This female octopus was photographed in May 2007 clinging to a rocky wall in Monterey Canyon less than a month after she laid her eggs and began brooding them (near the top of the photo) / This deep sea octopus has astounded Monterey Bay scientists by brooding her clutch of eggs for an amazing four-and-a-half years.
 
The Graneledone boreopacifica was first spotted by Monterey Bay Aquarium researchers 1,397 meters down in the Monterey Submarine Canyon as they surveyed an isolated rocky outcrop by ROV in April 2007.  When they returned in May they were able to identify her again by a distinct scar and she was clinging to a rock face guarding a clutch of eggs she’d cemented on.  Octopus eggs need constant attention from their mother who prevents them from being covered in silt and guards them from egg-eating-predators.
 
The team led by Bruce Robinson returned to Octomom a total of 18 times and were astounded to see her still there each time, doggedly protecting her young.  Finally they found empty egg cases in September 2011 53 months after their first visit.  “Every time we’d drop down to visit we’d say, ‘This is the last time she’s going to be here’” says Robinson.
 
Because they had so long to develop, the octopi could swim and hunt straight after hatching giving them a much greater chance at survival and the researchers continued to spot a few of them on later trips.
 
During the 53 month period researchers never witnessed Ocotomom feeding.  She grew paler and lost weight, her skin loosened and her eyes grew cloudy.  The low (3 degrees) temperature and her inactivity would have kept her metabolic demands low and it’s thought she may have eaten a few damaged eggs or the odd crab that wandered by.
 
Female octopus usually only have one reproductive period and the brooding time may account for a quarter of their lives.  Hopefully Octomom is up in warmer water now feeding up large after her marathon effort.  God knows she’s earned it!