Ask The Aquarium at Fort Fisher: Question: How does an octopus reproduce?

By / Life on the Island / Monday, 29 December 2014 05:00

A. Reproduction by this amazing eight-armed creature is as unique as the animal itself.
To reproduce, the male deposits a packet of spermatozoa into the mantle of the female – the part of an octopus that contains the vital organs and makes up the majority of the body.  In some instances, the female will retain the packet in a special gland until she decides the time is right to fertilize her eggs. Depending on the species, females can produce some 200,000 eggs.
Once the eggs are fertilized, the female produces long egg strings and attaches them to the underside of ledges, rocks, reefs, caves, etc., or beneath submerged objects like shipwrecks or other sunken debris. She stops eating and broods her eggs for four to six weeks by blowing oxygenated water over them with her siphon. She dies shortly before or soon after eggs hatch. Newborns are tiny replicas of their parents.
They measure about half the size of a grain of rice and rest on the sea bed or in grass flats where they mature quickly, lest they become part of the marine food web. Many never reach maturity. Some 200 species of octopus are known. The species found in North Carolina waters is the common octopus, Octopus vulgaris, a small variety weighing only a few pounds and having a short life span of 12 to18 months. Larger species are most often found in colder, northern waters.
Octopuses are loners and make their homes in shallow-water dens or small caves on or near the ocean floor. If no such nooks are available, they easily adapt to living inside wrecks, old car tires, pots, jars or other debris. They frequently block the entrance to their homes with rocks or other found objects to keep out intruders.
These interesting animals have highly developed central nervous systems, well developed eyesight and are excellent at camouflage. They exhibit complex behaviors, are masters at coordinating their eight independently working arms, and quickly learn to navigate mazes and distinguish colors and shapes. Such characteristics indicate an unusual degree of intelligence. They are truly awesome animals. Discover more fascinating facts about North Carolina’s aquatic environments and inhabitants by visiting the aquariums on Roanoke Island, at Fort Fisher and at Pine Knoll Shores, or Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head.

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