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Octopus Supermom

August 5, 2014

A deep-sea octopus sits on her eggs for four and a half years – possibly without eating.



octomom MBARI


A record-breaking egg brooder. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A deep-sea octopus sits on her eggs for four and a half years. That’s the longest known brooding period of any animal. The discovery came from expeditions led by deep sea ecologist Bruce Robison, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Robison notes that shallow-water octopi never leave their eggs or even eat while brooding, and there’s no sign that this species does either.

BRUCE ROBISON (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute):

Any moment that she’s away from those eggs means that they are vulnerable to predators. And there are plenty of predators around who would like to eat those eggs.

Robison says the cold waters of the deep may keep Mama’s metabolism slow enough to survive an extended fast. As with other octopi, it’s expected that these mothers die after their eggs hatch.  But in return for their sacrifice, their offspring have a very high survival rate. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.