ASLC Press Release
Seward, AK – April 15, 2013 –
A wondrous spectacle of nature began unfolding on March 6 in the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Denizens of the Deep exhibit. This exhibit is home to LuLu, a giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini), who has been tenderly guarding and protecting her brood of eggs, which she began laying in March 2012. Now, over a year later, tiny hatchlings known as paralarvae have begun to emerge. Thousands of them. And the baby octopuses are captivating the interest of visitors and staff.
LuLu the octopus laid eggs throughout the spring of 2012 after an encounter the previous fall
with Felix, a male giant Pacific octopus. A female giant Pacific octopus will lay eggs only once
in her life and can lay over 30,000 eggs; which she will brood and guard until they hatch. A
male giant Pacific octopus may mate with several females but will expire following this
LuLu has proven to be a very attentive and active mother, and her lifespan will end as the last of
the eggs mature. “LuLu is not feeding at this time but continues to groom and fan the eggs as
attentive octopus mothers do in this final reproductive phase of their lives,” said Richard
Hocking, the Center’s aquarium curator.
While other octopus species are often raised from eggs in aquariums across the globe, it’s not so with the giant Pacific octopus. There is only one documented case of a giant Pacific octopusnbeing successfully reared from egg to maturity in an aquarium setting; this happened in the mid-1980s. Giant Pacific octopuses are difficult to rear due to the delicate nature of the paralarvae after they emerge from their eggs and the nutritional demands that need to be met for proper growth. These challenges mean aquarists at the Center have a steep road ahead in trying to raise the hatchlings to adulthood, but they are taking several steps to increase their chances of survival. Aquarium staff are harvesting both wild and cultured zooplankton to feed the paralarval octopuses and have also constructed special rearing tanks.
In the wild, hatching octopuses swim toward the surface and can spend several weeks or even months drifting in the plankton rich water until they reach a size where they can hunt effectively at deeper depths. Once they settle to the bottom, juveniles will take refuge in naturally occurring
crevices and under rocks, where they have protection from predators and can continue to feed and mature. Octopuses consume mostly crustaceans and mollusks along with other bivalves, snails, fish and smaller octopuses.
Visitors to the Center can see LuLu and her newly-hatched offspring swimming in the Denizens of the Deep tank, and some of the hatchlings can also be viewed in a special display near the Discovery Touch Pool. Besides LuLu and her offspring, six other octopuses currently call the
Alaska SeaLife Center home.