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Octopus Life & Death

October 18, 2013

Octopuses have an unusual reproductive strategy: they die soon after mating.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Octopus life and death. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A young octopus at the Birch Aquarium. (Susanne Bard)

A listener contacted us with an unusual question. Do octopuses die after they spawn? But We spoke with aquarist Kylie Washer of the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, California. She says that once a female lays her eggs, she holes up in her den, and doesn’t eat for months.

KYLIE WASHER (Birch Aquarium):

Which causes her metabolism to slow down a lot, so the eggs will hatch right around the time that she’ll either die by starvation or by predation from some other animal. And they’re not taking any food the new offspring might need for development for growing, so the thought behind it is they have this reproductive strategy so the offspring have the highest success rate possible because there‚Äôs no competition within their same species.

HIRSHON:

Washer says males die soon after they reproduce as well. She adds that once they hatch, octopus larvae are left to fend for themselves. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.