Video by Daryn Clevesy | Visitor Program Coordinator
Story by Lauren Bucciero | Marketing Intern
This March, Seacoast Science Center welcomed some new baby critters! We were fortunate to receive a female two-spot octopus with eggs from our colleagues at Dartmouth College. Octopuses lay their eggs over the course of a few months, therefore, the babies hatch in different stages. The first batch of babies were hatched here at the Center in mid-March. When first born, an octopus is only about the size of a pea. Right now, we have octopuses ranging from 3 months, at the size of a quarter, to a week and the size of a fingernail.
Octopuses can grow at different rates depending on the water temperature. Our aquarist, Rob Royer, has kept the water temperature rather cool to keep the babies growing at a slower growing rate. Our hatchlings are kept in their own individual compartments to not only monitor their food intake and individual health, but because there is a strong possibility they would outcompete one another for food or even cannibalize one another if housed together.
The two-spot octopus is found in shallow waters in the Pacific Ocean. This species is aptly named for the two blue spots located on either side behind its eyes. When fully grown, the two-spot octopus has tentacles that can stretch out to about 2 feet in length, with their body about the size of a softball. These animals move primarily by using their tentacles and suction cups, but they can propel themselves through the water using their siphon. The siphon is an anatomical feature that allows octopuses to blow water similar to a jet.
Octopuses are invertebrates, meaning they have no bones, but they do have a hard beak for a mouth, which helps them crush and consume crustaceans, molluscs, and sometimes fish. Because they have no bones, these creatures are very good at fitting into tight spaces and are known to be “masters of escape” when in captivity.
Octopuses are incredibly intelligent and have a variety of unique traits. There have been many scientific studies that have allowed octopuses to demonstrate fascinating abilities, including opening childproof jars and demonstrating tool use. Octopuses are also very uniquely adapted with a sophisticated nervous system. They have the ability to camouflage and even make their body look like other animals or coral. They have special pigments in their skin that can actually mimic textures as well as colors. Some octopuses will camouflage to avoid predators or even lure prey.
When we first received the female octopus at SSC, she had about 100 eggs, and as of now, we have about 60 babies. The babies are fed once a day and eat a variety of food from tiny bits of shrimp species to clams. The survivability rate of these creatures in the wild is only in the single digits, but in captivity, it is predicted to be about 50%. Even with the best care, it is rare to have 100% survivability. So, we are very pleased with how things are going with our octopuses so far.
The two-spot octopus has a relatively short life-span, with about a one to two year life span expected in captivity. We look forward to when we can safely put them out on display for everyone to see — hopefully later this month. Be sure to stay tuned for updates on these crafty critters’ public debut and follow up videos.