Deep-Sea Octopus Guards Eggs for Years—Sans Food

4.5 years is the longest known brooding or gestation period of any animal

By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 31, 2014 12:16 PM CDT

(Newser) – Talk about endurance. Elephants endure 20-month gestation periods, and some deep-sea sharks carry their embryos for even longer than that, but the deep-sea octopus takes the cake. Scientists say they've observed one in California guarding her eggs for 4.5 years, the longest known brooding or gestation period of any animal anywhere in the world, an animal physiologist says. And if that isn't remarkable on its own, she apparently did it without food (or with very little food), and when her eggs hatched, she wasted away and died, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Octopuses typically only live a couple years, making this Graneledone boreopacifica likely the longest-living type of octopus as well, reports National Geographic. In shallow waters, octopuses watch their eggs for just a few months, but in deep waters, where the habitat is dark, cold, and dangerous, a longer brooding period allows for a more advanced offspring better equipped to survive. This female was found nearly a mile below sea level in the Monterey Canyon, and the years without food took a clear toll as she grew smaller, paler, and weaker before her 4-centimeter-long babies hatched. (Another weird octopus fact? Their mating ritual can end with strangulation and cannibalism.)

This image provided by NOAA shows an octopus guarding her eggs under an overhang in Hydrographer canyon.
This image provided by NOAA shows an octopus guarding her eggs under an overhang in Hydrographer canyon.   (AP Photo/NOAA)
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