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Octopus Babies Hatch by the Thousands, Captured on Video

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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octopus baby hatch

Giant Pacific octopus baby hatchling; image courtesy of Laura James/Vimeo

Octopuses live short, lonely lives. Even the big ones only see a few years. And that usually means only one shot at creating the next generation—and they don’t have time for parenting. So they up the odds of passing along their genetic legacy by making lots of babies, as in thousands and thousands of babies.

Female octopuses lay their eggs and painstakingly weave them together into strands. They then sit guard for weeks, months and sometimes as long as a year. During this time they don’t seem to eat much, and their main preoccupation is keeping their eggs aerated and clear of algae, which they do by blowing water over them and cleaning them delicately with their suckers. At the end of the brooding period, nearly all of the octopus young hatch at once, creating a marvel for those lucky enough to witness it.

One diver in Puget Sound captured one impressive giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) brood hatching on film last week. The water, about 30 meters below the surface, was filled with tiny baby octopuses, swimming up and away from their mother (seen tucked away in a den with additional strands of eggs). Although only millimeters long at hatching, these octopuses can grow to be adults weighing more than 15 kilograms and with an arm span of more than four meters.

After leaving their egg casings, these hatchlings will swim toward the surface and join other small animals in a planktonic stage. Those that survive this dangerous phase will eventually settle back on the seafloor to feast on crabs—and search for their own mates.

The giant Pacific octopus can lay tens of thousands of eggs in her one and only brood. It only takes two or so octopuses out of each clutch to survive and reproduce to keep an octopus population steady. Baby octopuses, good luck out there.

Video courtesy of Laura James

Illustration courtesy of Ivan Phillipsen

Katherine Harmon Courage About the Author: Katherine Harmon Courage is a freelance writer and contributing editor for Scientific American. Her book Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature In the Sea is out now from Penguin/Current. Follow on Twitter @KHCourage.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. WizeHowl 7:29 am 09/27/2013

    Katherine, I really enjoy your blogs, they are informative, educational and for once at Sci-Am Scientific. But PLEASE use proper grammar, there is no such thing as octopuses, they are Octopodes, even in the case of “It only takes two or so octopuses out of each clutch to survive and reproduce” the word Octopus would have sufficed.

    Please make sure you do not insult us with this terrible word in your new book, I am looking forward to reading it, but I detest poor English, especially from someone with so much knowledge and talent.

    Link to this
  2. 2. nmmgs 10:16 pm 10/20/2013

    WiseHowl, you should watch this video from Merriam-Webster.

    Link to this
  3. 3. seamansoul 10:57 am 11/29/2013

    Octopus has three hearts.

    Two of them are pumping the ‘blue blood’ to the gills and one creates the blood flow in the body.

    Both males and females die after they mate. That’s why they can mate once.

    Males die a couple of months later (usually one).

    Female prefers not to hunt but to protect the eggs. This sacrifice results in starvation of the female octopus after the eggs hatch.

    There are over 300 species of octopus.

    The biggest one is the Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini). Adult Giant Pacific Octopus generally weigh around 15 kg (33 lb) and has an arm span of 4.3 meters (14 feet).

    There are some questionable reported cases with 272 kg (600 lb) in weight and 9 meters (30 feet) arm span.

    I also wrote an article about octopus in my own blog.

    You can read it here:

    Thank you for this helpful post.

    Link to this

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