When the Marine Education Center and the Aquarium at the University of Georgia recently acquired a common octopus, they got a little more than they expected. Thinking that the individual was a man, they called him Octavius and stuck him in one of his own aquariums. It was a social butterfly, even aquatic, who loved reaching out and investigating the weird-looking land mammals on the other side of the glass.
But then Octavius withdrew, hiding in a cave for much of the day. And then one day, around the end of October, aquarium curator Devin Dumont went to clean the tank to find thousands of almost microscopic particles floating in it. "I noticed this cloud of moving dots and realized," Oh my God, she had babies. There are babies. There are babies everywhere, "said Dumont. Savannah now. "And a kind of panic is followed." He picked them up in buckets so that the aquarium staff could take care of them, knowing that this explosion of new life meant the beginning of the end for Octavius.
Octavius is, obviously, a female octopus, which is in fact a somewhat understandable mistake. Octopuses do not have a strong sexual dimorphism, which means that the sexes are not usually so different. The main clues are some minor physical differences on their third right arm that are easily omitted. Dumont and her colleagues think that Octavius had to be pregnant on arrival but was waiting to be able to lay until she was comfortable in her new home. Octopuses can store sperm for weeks after mating in search of optimal conditions.
Unfortunately, when females lay their eggs, they also begin a slow march towards death. They stop eating, devote themselves entirely to the care of their brood and end up withering away. Males do not come out more easily, they die shortly after mating.
Although Octavius will die soon, his babies will live in nature and in captivity. Some have been released in the local Skidaway River, others will grow in nursery tanks and still others in the shellfish research laboratory located nearby. They will live their own lives by being strange and wild creatures that are all octopuses, until they end up sacrificing themselves too for their offspring. It's literally the circle of life.