Octopus supermom sets egg-brooding record

A female deep-sea octopus has smashed the record for egg brooding. The devoted mom, a Graneledone boreopacifica, held her eggs in her arms for 4.5 years, until they hatched—and she apparently died. Scientists first spotted her and her eggs in 2007 during one of their regular visits, via a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), to the deep-sea habitat of Monterey Submarine Canyon off the coast of California. She was perched on a rocky outcrop 1397 meters below the ocean’s surface, with her arms curled around her clutch (see video above). Over the next 53 months, the scientists returned to the outcrop 18 times—and each time, there was the female, still patiently guarding her eggs, they report today in PLOS ONE. During their visits, they noticed that she never ate; rather than hunting crabs and shrimp, she pushed them away anytime they got too close to her eggs. She even ignored a tempting bit of crabmeat the scientists extended to her by means of one of the ROV’s arms. They suspect that she may have ingested damaged or unfertilized eggs to stay alive, but the marathon egg brooding took its toll. When the scientists first saw her, she was a pale purple, but over time she turned a ghostly white, her mantle shrank, her skin slackened, and her eyes grew cloudy. The researchers last saw her in September 2011. On their next visit the following month, she was gone; female octopuses invariably die after brooding. Only the tattered remnants of her empty egg capsules remained, indicating a successful hatch.

Posted in Plants & Animals