New parents (even surrogate ones) are always excited to show off their baby pictures, and the folks at the Seaside Aquarium are no exception to the rule. They couldn’t wait to share their photos of octopus babies that hatched at the aquarium in late November.
The aquarium’s Octopus rubescens (red octopus) laid 2000 to 3000 eggs in early October, and the eggs hatched about six weeks later. At birth, the babies were approximately the size of a half grain of rice. In the wild, octopus babies feed on zooplankton and ride the ocean’s currents for a week or two before settling down on the ocean floor, where they use shells, bottles, and other small shelters as dens. In this case, the aquarium kept fresh ocean water circulating through their tank and fed them brine shrimp as a supplement. Then they released them into a protected intertidal area, where, unfortunately, they had a limited chance for survival. On average, only a few live to reproduce in the wild.
O. rubescens is a generalist carnivore, which means it eats whatever meat it can catch. Prey ranges from crabs to barnacles, and may include gastropods (snails) and bivalves (clams). Spiral shell snails are eaten by drilling a hole in the shell and injecting a paralyzing toxin. Once the toxin takes effect, the snail is withdrawn from the shell and consumed. Bivalves and small crabs may be consumed in a similar manner.
Octopuses, which have a two- to three-year life cycle, are probably the most highly evolved mollusks in the ocean. Their eyes
are similar in structure to the vertebrate (human) eye, and they have excellent vision, although it is believed that they cannot see color as we do. Studies reveal a high level of intelligence, and their learning abilities probably parallel a rat.
The last part of the female’s cycle is spent safeguarding her eggs, which she does by circulating water throughout the egg bundles to make sure that each egg gets enough air to breathe. Shortly after the eggs are successfully hatched, she dies.
Social behavior between members of this species is limited to mating, and non-tolerant interactions at other times. It appears that they just don’t like each other very much, and live solitary lives whenever possible.
Tiffany Boothe is on the staff of the Seaside Aquarium.
FYI: The Seaside Aquarium is located at Second Avenue and North Promenade, two blocks north of the Turnaround. It is open daily at 9 a.m. Hours vary in the winter. Call 503-738-6211 for more information.