Deep-sea octopus invests in future: Longest brooding period ever recorded





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Published on Jul 30, 2014

Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have observed a deep-sea octopus brooding its eggs for four and one half years—much longer than any other known animal. Throughout this time, the female kept the eggs clean and guarded them from predators. This amazing feat represents an evolutionary balancing act between the benefits to the young octopuses of having plenty of time to develop within their eggs, and their mother’s ability to survive for years with little or no food. Although long-term observations of deep-sea animals are rare, the researchers propose that extended brooding periods may be common in the deep sea. Such extended life stages would need to be taken into account in assessing the effects of human activities on deep-sea animals. In any case, this strategy has apparently worked for Graneledone boreopacifica—it is one of the most common deep-sea octopuses in the Northeastern Pacific.

Video producer: Susan von Thun
Script and narration: Bruce Robison
Production support: Nancy Jacobsen Stout, Kyra Schlining, Lonny Lundsten, Linda Kuhnz

MBARI press release:

Original journal article:
Robison B., Seibel B., Drazen J. (2014), Deep-sea octopus (Graneledone boreopacifica) conducts the longest-known egg-brooding period of any animal. PLoS ONE 9(7): e103437. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0103437


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