Octobabies at SCMDC!!!

Here at the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre in Eden, NSW, we have had a very exciting week with the multiple births of literally hundreds of baby octopus occurring over a number of days. First discovered last Monday the 4th of June,  the tank was bubbling with activity as minute (about 1mm long) baby octopus, or hatchlings, bobbed around and up and down in the water.

Gloomy octopus

Earlier in February of this year, a female Gloomy Octopus – Octopus tetricus – was delivered to the centre. She soon became a star attraction as she was very active and engaging, often coming up to the tank whenever visitors to the centre arrived. We had a naming competition for her, and after several entries called for the same name, she was christened “Octavia”.

In early May, Octavia begun exhibiting ‘brooding’ behaviour; taking rocks and shells to her section of the tank and covering herself up almost completely. She wasn’t taking food from us nor was she coming out from her lair the way she use to. We kept a close eye on her, and about two weeks later, discovered Octavia had in fact deposited strings of small eggs to the roof of her cave, or lair.

Strings of eggs hang from the octopus's lair

We waited and watched, and watched and waited until finally, last Monday, to our delight we noticed the first hatchlings in the tank. The hundreds of babies that first hatched have been active, although numbers have dwindled despite another lot of eggs hatching three days ago. We’re feeding the babies with artemia, (brine shrimp), supplied to us by the generous guys over at the Merimbula Wharf and Aquarium and are keeping vigourous notes, and a keen eye on all developments.

We have returned some of the hatchlings to the sea to give them a fighting chance of survival. Sadly, the reported mortality rate in the wild is high. Also occuring in the wild is the imminent death of the mother octopus,  possibly due to starvation (the mother rarely leaves her lair while she sits inside oxygenating her eggs)

 

However, to date, the SCMDC’s newest Octomum is still alive although she hides in her lair all of the time now. She is refusing food and continues to cover the front of her home with rocks and shells.

Looking like tiny blobs of white, we were keen to get a closer look at the newest members of the SCMDC team, so we scooped one up and placed it under the Micro-Eye and hurriedly took some photos while it darted in and around and all over the place!  We tried other techniques including using the macro lenses on our cameras, placing one specimen in a test tube, and under the microscope – so teeny tiny, there weren’t the best behaved for a photo shoot!

Baby octopus day 2

Hundreds of baby octopus bobbing around inside the tank

Baby octopus day 3

It’s been exciting days here as far as octobirths and octobabies are concerned and we’re all happy to be a part of this amazing spectacle.

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