Deep Sea Octopus Brooded Over Eggs Longer Than Any Animal, Says URI Researcher

Aug 4, 2014

Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and the University of Rhode Island published surprising findings of a deep sea octopus that guarded her eggs for 4-½ years. This is the longest brooding period ever recorded by any animal on the planet.

This female octopus spent 4 1/2 years brooding her eggs on a ledge near the bottom of Monterey Canyon, about 4,600 feet below the ocean surface.
Credit © 2007 MBARI

What makes the length of this brooding period even more astonishing is that the octopus survived on little to no food. During the 4-½ years brooding period, the octopus protected her eggs from predators and kept them clean. URI researcher Brad Seibal said he and his colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute found the octopus 1500 meters deep at the start of her brooding period.

"So we knew the start date and from there we could go back every few months and determine that she was still there and the eggs were actually still developing and we watched for close to 4-½ years before the mother and the eggs finally disappeared," said Seibal.

After the eggs hatch, the mother octopus dies. In addition to the record breaking brooding period, this octopus may be one of the longest lived. Most octopuses have a lifespan of 2 to 3 years.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute produced a video describing the life cycle of this octopus.

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