Octopus “birth” day by Jay Walker

February 17, 2016 Leave your thoughts

There’s often more than meets the eye going on at Great Lakes Aquarium. Occasionally, fascinating things happen behind the scenes; things that make us excited to be aquarists. This week one of those things happened.

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15 baby octopuses were hatched and rescued from the octopus tank. Our staff had been watching the eggs closely for more than a month. Our last common octopus laid her eggs in her aquarium in Shipwrecks Alive!  This event signaled to us that the female octopus had reached the end of her life span. (This species of octopus only live for approximately for one year.)

Once the female lays her eggs she will stop eating and put all of her energy into caring for her eggs. We knew that these eggs were viable by how much effort she put into cleaning and aerating them.  This species of octopus only live for approximately for one year.

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Each tiny octopus is about the size of a pencil eraser right now. And all of them extremely fragile. It is rare that baby octopuses born in captivity survive to adulthood. In fact, of the fifteen surviving there may have been dozens that hatched from this particular egg sack.  This is not uncommon. Even in the wild, very few survive.

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Still, this represents a significant learning opportunity for our aquarists. We have put together small culture jars that the octopus will live and grow in. These jars have a mesh screen on the top to allow for water to flow through and to not lose the animal inside. One of the challenges to culturing these octopus will be feeding them. Like most babies they will need to eat, a lot. So our staff as been culturing small zooplankton to feed the babies. Our goal is to have a least one or two of the babies survive.

One important note: due to the fragility of these animals they are not on exhibit, nor is their availability for visitors to view them. We thank you for your understanding.

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