Record-Breaking Octopus Reveals New Secrets Of The Deep Sea

by
Lauren Burgoon
Think 9 months is a long time to wait for a baby? Check out this octopus.

They say a mother's work is never done. This octopus knows a thing or two about that.

Researchers identified a Pacific Ocean octopus as having the longest-ever found brooding period, when a mother protects her eggs.

An manatee's 13-month gestation and even an elephant's 23-month ordeal is nothing compared to this: The octopus brooded for four-and-a-half years.

And get this: It's very unlikely she during that time, too. 

Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute scientists first found the mama octopus clinging to a rock in 2007 4,600 feet below the Pacific Ocean surface. She never moved during 18 visits. No researcher ever saw her eat -- she swatted away shrimp and other creatures that got close to the egg clutch and even ignored the researchers' offer of food. 

Instead, the octopus spent her long vigil bathing the 160 eggs with fresh water to provide oxygen. The extreme brooding time is the longest ever discovered among animals and is probably necessary so the eggs could develop in the freezing, harsh world that lies 1.5 km below the ocean surface.

Her babies probably didn't even get a chance to thank her. Most octopuses die soon after their eggs hatch.