Octopus named Mum of the Year

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Deep-Sea octopus (Graneledone boreopacifica) keeps vigil over her eggs for four-and-a-half-years.

Scientists have discovered what must be the world’s most dedicated mother. A deep-sea octopus that tended to her clutch of 160 eggs for 53 months. It is believed that she did not eat during the entire brooding period.

Typical shallower and coastal species of octopus brood for 1-3 months but very little is known about the behavior of deep-living species.

It is likely in the cold, dark waters of the deep ocean that metabolic processes are much slower than that of their shallower-watered counterparts.

The study of the octopus began in 2007 where a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) was used to inspect an isolated rocky outcrop, almost 1.4km deep, in the Monteray Submarine Canyon, off central California.

The same octopus, identified by its unique scaring, was re-visited 18 times over a four and a half year period. Continuous growth of the eggs provided evidence that it was the same clutch throughout.

During the course of the observation the temperature measured 2.8C to 3.4C /37F to 38F.

"We found her there again and again and again, past the point that anybody expected she’d persist", said Dr Robinson. "It got to be like a sports team we were rooting for. We wanted her to survive and to succeed."

In October 2011 the team of scientists returned to find the octopus disappeared leaved behind empty eggs cases fixed to the rocks.

All female octopuses die soon after the time their eggs hatch. They put all of their available energy into generating and caring for their eggs.  In this case a process that lasted a lot longer than any other recorded animal.  

The giant red shrimp (Aristaeomorpha foliacea) holds the previous known record for brooding at almost two years.