Octopus Eggs and the Story of Senescence

If you’ve visited the GSC in the last couple of weeks, it’s likely you’ve heard from a staff member or volunteer that our Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) recently laid eggs. While this is very exciting news, it also means that the end of our female’s life cycle is drawing near.

Our Giant Pacific Octopus (GPO) has been here for about one year, weighing 9 lbs. at the time of her arrival. As of May 2018, she weighed 30 lbs. and stretched 6 ft. from arm tip to opposite arm tip. We can estimate from these numbers that at the time of laying eggs, she weighed around 40 lbs. Though ours is slightly below the average weight (around 50 lbs.) for GPOs, she’s very healthy. It’s always difficult to determine the age of an octopus, but we estimate her to be roughly 2.5 years old.

The average lifespan for a GPO is about 3 years, near the end of which they enter a stage referred to as senescence. Senescence occurs at the end of a mature octopus’ natural life; this is a roughly month-long period in which they mate. GPOs are one of many octopus species that are “semelparous,” meaning they reproduce once and then die. Salmon are another example of a marine species that does this. Senescence is characterized by several things, including loss of appetite, retraction of the skin around the eyes, laying and brooding of eggs (in females), uncoordinated movement or undirected activity (in males), and the appearance of white lesions on the body.

The process of laying eggs can be taxing on the female octopus, unfolding over the course of approximately a week. Eggs resemble grains of rice on strings, woven together to create a holdfast that attaches to a hard surface. The female octopus will lay eggs in her den (in which she’ll spend a good portion of her time) and prefers to attach them to an overhang. Brooding of the eggs occurs for five months to a year, during which time the female will aerate and clean them until her body succumbs to the stress of this process. During the brooding process, an octopus will start to lose her appetite and refuse food – all due to hormonal changes in the body. This leads her to becoming anorexic during the egg-guarding period – losing between 50-71% of her body weight – eventually leading to her death.

Octopus Eggs

As all Giant Pacific Octopuses are wild-caught, it is unknown if the eggs are viable. Mating can occur early in life, with the female holding on to the spermatophores deposited by the male until she is mature and ready to use them. To date, only one successful rearing attempt has been recorded in captivity, occurring in 1986. This one male (who came from a population of 200 individuals from approximately 20,000 eggs) lived to 38 months. The process of keeping him alive was heavily labor intensive, requiring 6-8 hours per day for feeding and fastidious cleaning during the first 9 months of his care.

As for us, we’re excited for this opportunity to learn more about how Giant Pacific Octopus females behave while caring for their eggs and will be recording our observations extensively.  Though we are not likely to have viable eggs, we’re excited to share this unique stage with all of you as the Greensboro Science Center experiences our first female octopus’ life cycle completion. Please feel free to find a volunteer or staff member during your next visit to ask questions. We look forward to seeing you.

Source: AZA Aquatic Invertebrate Taxon Advisory Group (AITAG) (2014). Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) Care Manual. Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Silver Spring, MD.

Meet the Cast of TANKED!

As you might have heard, the Greensboro Science Center is getting TANKED! The popular Animal Planet series, TANKED, is building and installing a Giant Pacific Octopus tank for our aquarium. While they’re here, the stars of the show, Wayde King and Brett Raymer will be available for a meet and greet with Greensboro Science Center visitors. Space is limited, so read on to learn how you can have a chance to meet them.


DATE: Saturday, September 26, 2015
TIME: 10:00am – 1:00pm
LOCATION: Giant Pacific Octopus exhibit in the Greensboro Science Center’s aquarium

If you are a Greensboro Science Center Member:
From Thursday, September 17 through Saturday, September 19, GSC Members will have the opportunity to receive TANKED Meet & Greet wristbands before they are available to the public. Simply stop by the admissions window on the left (look for the sign that says “TANKED Meet & Greet – Get your wristbands here”) to receive your free wristbands. Members can receive one wristband per person listed on their membership. Children ages 2 and under do not need a wristband to participate.

There are a limited number of wristbands available for Members, so we encourage you to get yours as early as possible!

If you are NOT a Greensboro Science Center Member:
Non-Members can visit the Greensboro Science Center’s left admissions window (look for the sign that says “TANKED Meet & Greet – Get your wristbands here”) starting Sunday, September 20 to purchase wristbands for the TANKED Meet & Greet. This event is free with general admission, but you MUST have a special wristband to participate. General admission is $12.50 for adults ages 14 – 64, $11.50 for children ages 3 – 13, and $11.50 for seniors ages 65+. Children 2 and under are free.

Quantities are limited, so we encourage you to get your wristbands in advance!

Important Reminders:

  • Wristbands for the TANKED Meet & Greet may only be purchased on site. No phone calls.
  • The Greensboro Science Center is closed Friday, September 25 for our annual See To Believe Gala. Therefore, no wristbands will be available that day.
  • Depending on availability, wristbands MAY be available on Saturday, September 26. We encourage you to purchase in advance just to be safe. Follow us on Twitter – we’ll try to keep you updated during the week regarding how many wristbands are still available.
  • There will likely be a line for the TANKED Meet & Greet, so be prepared!
  • Merchandise will be available for purchase – cash only.
  • The aquarium will be open during this time, so visitors will still be able to enjoy the GSC in its entirety – including the new Giant Pacific Octopus exhibit!
  • Share your experience using #GSCTanked!