Mama octopus makes egg-tending history

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Octopus mama
This mama octopus watched her eggs for almost 4.5 years!

If there’s one deep-sea animal that deserves a “Mother of the Year” award, it has to be the Graneledone boreopacifica octopus. Why? This eight-legged lady just earned the world record for longest period of egg-tending, after researchers observed the octopus guarding her offspring for almost 4 and a half years!

That definitely makes chickens seem like slackers, since they only sit on their eggs for about 20 days! The previous record-holder for longest protection of babies was the alpine salamander, which spends up to 4 years defending its brood. As far as how other octopi measure up, this dedicated mama shattered scientific expectations, because the longest confirmed octopus egg-tending was 14 months before she came around.

What’s even more fascinating, is that these mother octopi can actually survive those years without eating! The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) scientists who observed the octopus from beginning to end say that she even turned down a meal they offered her. During their observations, the mama octopus also managed to keep her eggs safe from predators the entire time, even shooing away animals that would normally be a yummy snack. The researchers used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) about 1,400 meters below sea level to keep an eye on the beast, returning 18 times to find the octopus in the same exact spot!

The G. boreopacifica measures 9 centimeters in length, and can be found in both the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean. All octopi are classified as cephalopods, and share physical characteristics like a set of tentacles and the ability to squirt ink behind them to escape dangerous situations. Octopi also have a hard beak for a mouth at the center of their arms, have no skeleton of any kind (meaning they’re “invertebrates”), and are some of the most intelligent and flexible beasts in the ocean. They’re also still a source of tremendous mystery for scientists.

Images courtesy of Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.