When Octavius the octopus arrived at the University of Georgia’s Marine Education Center and Aquarium in August, they were holding onto a secret. Well, ten thousand secrets, to be precise.
Despite the name, it now turns out that Octavius is female. But the real surprise was that she also happened to be pregnant; the keepers had no idea until early last week, when she gave birth and turned her tank into a veritable snow globe of cephalopod eggs.
“I noticed this cloud of moving dots and I realised, ‘Oh my God, she had babies. There are babies. There are babies everywhere.’ And a sort of panic ensued,” aquarium curator Devin Dumont said.
Dumont didn’t know Octavius’s sex when he received the delivery of the common octopus from Charleston’s South Carolina Aquarium. it had been caught in the wild, and nobody had stopped to check the octopus’s gonads.
Female octopuses can store sperm until conditions are perfect for the fertilisation and release of eggs, so it’s likely Octavius was waiting for the right moment to start her family of thousands.
It was during a routine tank clean that Dumont found the aquarium now had a nursery. The only clue Octavius gave to her imminent arrivals was a quiet retreat into a rocky crevice in the corner of her tank last month.
That said, it might be better not to get too attached. Even in the safe confines of captivity, baby octopuses are notoriously challenging pets. There’s a chance every one of those ten thousand or so larvae could perish.
Depressingly, Dumont could quickly go from thousands of octopuses to zero, since Octavius might also not be long for this world. Mother octopuses are known to starve themselves after giving birth.
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