In a unique discovery, scientists have found a female octopus which was observed brooding its eggs for four-and-a-half years in the deep sea.
The scientists say the brooding period of the female octopus Graneledone boreopacifica, which was found at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, is longer than any other known animal.
According to the researchers, the octopus was found brooding a clutch of eggs 4600 feet below the ocean in May 2007.
The researchers visited the site off central California as many as 18 times over the period of next four-and-a-half years. During the experiment period they found the female octopus, which has unique scars on her body, guarding the eggs at the same place.
The time passed by but the Octomom, as the scientists called her lovingly, stayed at the same place with ‘occasional shift in her position or relaxing by uncurling and lifting one or two arms’, said the researchers.
With the passing time, the Octomom lost weight and also became weak and flaccid but she always continued centered over its eggs, the researchers stressed.
The researchers also observed that the octopus was also not eating. They say whenever a crab or shrimp passes nearby her, she simply pushed them away as if she is ignoring them. She even, the scientists stress, ignored the pieces of crab offered to her by them using a remotely operated machine. During the period, she went from a pallid purple to a pale i.e. almost white due to weakness.
Meanwhile, the tear-drop-shaped, olive-sized eggs grew larger. The Octomom continuously bathe the eggs in fresh and oxygenated seawater.
“These octopuses are at the very extreme end of the spectrum where they are putting a lot of parental investment to make sure that their offspring are competitive when they hatch,” Brad Seibel, one of the main study researchers, said.
Seibel is professor of marine biology at the University of Rhode Island.
The researchers have last seen the female octopus in September 2011, following 53 months of observation. A month later when they came back, they saw the brooding octopus gone and the clutch size was found between 155 and 165 eggs.
“Hatchlings of Octomom are the largest and most developmentally advanced coleoid cephalopod hatchlings known to date. They emerge as virtual miniature adults, without a pelagic juvenile phase,” said the paper.
The study was published in the Public Library of Science or PLOS ONE on Wednesday.