Octopus mother hatches her eggs for 4.5 years until hatchling

This is the longest hatching period ever recorded in every animal kingdom. Phenomenon was recorded at 1400 meters deep by submarine.

Octopus is seen hatching eggs in the rock wall off the coast of California, 1,397 meters deep.

If one were to create an award for "mother of the year" in the animal kingdom, a strong contender would be a dedicated eight-armed mom who lives in the deep, dark, cold Pacific Ocean.

American scientists described on Wednesday (July 30, 2014) how the female of an octopus species that lives nearly 1400 meters deep spends 4.5 years hatching and protecting her eggs until they hatch. During this period she renounces any food for herself.

This is the longest hatching period ever recorded in any animal, according to scientists, who published the finding in the scientific journal "PLOS ONE".

The researchers used a remotely controlled submarine to monitor the species called Bulk boreopacificain great depths off the coast of California.

Eggs can be seen under female octopus, December 2010

They then identified a female clinging to the vertical wall of a rock near the bottom of a canyon that stretched some 1,400 meters below the surface. She hatched about 160 translucent eggs, keeping them free of debris and sediment and scaring off predators.

At no time did the octopus mother leave her eggs alone. She wasn't seen eating anything either. The octopus progressively lost weight and its skin became pale and saggy. The researchers monitored the female in 18 dives over 53 months, from May 2007 to September 2011.

Bruce Robison, a deep-sea ecologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California, says this species demonstrates an extremely strong maternal instinct. "It's extraordinary. It's amazing. We're still surprised by what we saw," said Robison.

Empty eggs after hatching in October 2011

Most female octopus lay eggs once in their lives and die shortly after hatching. Newborns of this species are not defenseless babies. The long hatching period allows the young to hatch from eggs already able to survive on their own. They emerge as adult miniatures capable of catching small prey.

At this great depth there is no sunlight: the only light comes from the bioluminescent sea creatures. Moreover, it is very cold: the temperature is 3ºC. "It may sound pretty nasty to us, but it's their house," says Robison.

During the hatching period, the octopus mother seemed to be focused exclusively on egg welfare. "She protected her eggs from predators, and they were abundant. There are fish and crabs and every kind of creature that would love to eat those eggs. So she would push them away as they approached her," says the scientist.

"She kept the eggs free of sediment and ventilated them by moving the water around them for oxygen exchange. She was taking care of them," he added. This species measures about 40 cm and has a pale purple skin and mottled texture. They feed on crabs, shrimps and snails.

Female hatches her eggs on an almost vertical rock wall