Today the Department of Awesome Parenting salutes this deep sea cephalopod supermom who spent four years and five months vigilantly guarding her brood of eggs until they hatched. This 53 month period is double the longest known brooding time ever seen in the animal kingdom.
The discovery, published in the journal PLOS One, was made in a canyon 1.4km beneath the Pacific, off California. Dr Bruce Robison led the research at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). He told BBC News his team had stumbled upon the plucky mother in the days before she settled down and glued her eggs to the rock face. She was heading, slowly, for a known brooding site.
Characteristic scars on the octopus enabled the team to identify her one month later when they spotted her a second time, now with a new clutch of eggs.
"The first time that we dropped back down… and realised that she had gone up and laid a clutch of eggs, it was very exciting," Dr Robison said. "We knew that we had the beginning. No-one had ever had the good fortune to come upon the beginning of a brooding period."
The team paid 18 additional visits over a 4.5 year period to check on the devoted mama octopus using their robotic submarine. Once a female octopus has laid her eggs, she spends the rest of her life protecting them. She doesn’t eat during this period, which means she slowly weakens as her eggs develop. Shortly after the eggs hatch, her magnum opus completed, she dies.
When Dr Robison’s team visited the site for what would be the last time, they found only empty egg cases. The brood had successfully hatched and their faithful mum had gone. Take a moment to think back over all the last 4.5 years of your life and consider that during that entire period this incredible mama octopus was doing one awesome thing.
Head over to BBC News to learn more.
[via BBC News and PLOS One]