Pacific octopus holds record for egg-brooding time

  • Updated: August 22, 2014 - 5:19 PM

The egg capsules of a Pacific deep-sea octopus in month 43 of their development.

Photo: PLOS One via New York Times,

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A Pacific deep-sea octopus called Graneledone boreopacifica has been found to have an egg-brooding cycle of 53 months — the longest period that any animal is known to protect its eggs. In April 2007, researchers observed a solitary female Graneledone in the Monterey Canyon, off the central coast of California. When they revisited the site a little more than a month later, they found the octopus guarding a newly formed clutch of eggs.

“It was an astonishing find,” said Jeffrey Drazen, a marine ecologist at the University of Hawaii and an author of a report on the octopus, published in PLOS One. The scientists returned to the site 18 times over more than 4 years, using a remotely operated vehicle to monitor the octopus and her clutch, estimated at 160 eggs. She did not feed while nesting, and her body became pale and slack. Like other octopods, the Graneledone dies after its eggs hatch. Drazen and his colleagues believe the long brooding cycle may be a reproductive strategy.

Laying fewer eggs and guarding them for so long allow the babies to grow and fully develop while still in their eggs, giving them the best survival chances. Among octopuses, the previous egg-brooding record-holder, at 14 months, is Bathypolypus arcticus.

New York Times

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