Wednesday, July 05, 2000

Aquarium's octopus is doomed

By laying eggs, she starts clock

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Octopus at Newport Aquarium
| ZOOM |
        NEWPORT — The Newport Aquarium's female giant Pacific octopus recently laid eggs in her tank, a natural process for the intelligent aquatic animal, but it will cost her her life.

        Aquarium officials said Tuesday that the octopus, which is a little over 2 years old, laid eggs about a week ago but there is no male octopus to fertilize the clutch.

        “She did what females of the species do, following nature,” said aquarium spokeswoman Lisa Popyk. “But the other part of nature for her is that her biological clock now begins to slow and she will die.”

        Aquatic biologist Eileen Flynn, the animal's primary keeper, removed the eggs from the tank. She said the octopus continues to move about and has eaten since laying the eggs.

        In the ocean, the female would lay hundreds of eggs, wait for them to be fertilized, and then tend them until they hatch several months later. She does not eat during that period and dies soon after the young hatch.

        Ms. Popyk said the aquarium's octopus, about 5 feet long and a favorite attraction, is expected to live for “many weeks. We don't know just how long we'll have her, but it will be a while.” The normal life span in the wild is three to four years.

        Ms. Flynn said the aquarium will look for another giant Pacific octopus, but she anticipates acquiring one that is smaller and younger so it will have a longer life at the aquarium.


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