The Alaska SeaLife Center announces the hatch of giant Pacific octopus’ eggs
April 26, 2018

Seward, Alaska (April 26, 2018) – Gilligan, the eldest female giant Pacific octopus at the Alaska SeaLife Center (ASLC) began laying her eggs May 2017. About 2 weeks ago ASLC aquarists noticed tiny cephalopods floating around the tank. Gilligan encourages them to hatch by blowing water from her mantle onto the egg bundles. ASLC Aquarium Curator, Richard Hocking, expects all the eggs to hatch by the end of May. Babies are about a quarter inch long and already resemble their parents. They hatch with all 8 arms, sucker discs, and well-developed eyes. They can also swim quite effectively by jet propulsion. As they surface, staff gradually transport them to a rearing tank where they float and eat zooplankton.

In 2014, Gilligan was collected with a male octopus, Ginger, when she was under 5 grams. Both octopuses were unintentionally named opposite of their gender because they were too small to be sexed. Giant Pacific octopus cannot easily be sexed until about 2 years of age. Once Gilligan matured she was mated with another octopus, Leo, in December of 2016.

Giant Pacific octopus only seek out a mate towards the end of their 3 to 6 year lifespan. The male passes a spermatophore into the female’s mantle during mating. The female has up to 6 months to use it to fertilize her eggs. 20,000 to 80,000 eggs are laid in long, braided strands and look like white tear-shaped grape clusters. The process of laying the eggs can take about a month. The female will stay with the eggs, guarding them from predators and keeping them clean for the 6 to 12 months it will take them to hatch.

Hatching and successfully rearing giant Pacific octopuses is extremely rare. There is only 1 documented case of this species being reared to adulthood at the Seattle Aquarium in the 1980s. In the wild, the survival rate of hatchlings is about 1 percent. In an aquarium, the odds of survival are very low as the hatchlings are extremely delicate and have complex nutritional needs. This is ASLC’s third opportunity to raise giant Pacific octopus babies and staff remains hopeful as they begin rearing.

Visitors can see Gilligan and her hatchlings in ASLC’s “Octopus Grotto” exhibit. So far less than 100 have hatched, but over the next several weeks more are expected to emerge. Look carefully for these tiny cephalopods as they are hard to spot – they are approximately the size of a pea.

About Giant Pacific Octopus

Octopus are in the mollusk phylum (snails, clams, chitons) and more specifically are members of the class Cephalopoda, which includes squid, cuttlefish and nautilus. There are at least 6 other species of octopus found in coastal Alaskan waters, but the giant Pacific octopus is the most frequently encountered.

About the ASLC

Opened in 1998, the Alaska SeaLife Center operates as a private, non-profit research institution and public aquarium. It generates and shares scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems. The ASLC is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. To learn more, visit www.alaskasealife.org.

High resolution photos/video of the octopus hatchlings and full story available from media@alaskasealife.org or 907-224-6334

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