Ruby, our Octopus rubescens, has become quite the star this summer in our Marine Exhibit! Many new guests have been visiting with the hope of catching a glimpse of this starlet; little do they know she has gone into hiding to fulfill her maternal duties! Ruby has laid two clutches of eggs, one under a rock and one inside the bottle in her tank. Though she seemed to be tending equally to both clutches at first, she is now spending all of her time with the first clutch she laid under the rock. (Perhaps the bottle didn't provide adequate privacy?)
According to Tim Carpenter, Curator of Fish and Invertebrates at the Seattle Aquarium, octopuses can hold sperm for up to one year. Additionally, octopuses can hold fertilized eggs for a couple of months before finding a suitable den to lay in.
The gestation period for these eggs, providing that they are fertile, will be around 6 months depending on various conditions such as water temperature and flow. Now we will play the waiting game... Department of Fish and Wildlife gave Ruby to us back in late March. Trying to figure out how old the eggs are, whether they were fertilized before or after her new life in our jewel tank, while also factoring in the the water conditions seems seems like a math problem from a bad dream. For now we will do our best to provide Ruby with adequate water flows and little disturbance. Don't worry, we will keep you posted with the latest on Ruby and her offspring! Maybe we should call her the Octo-mom rather than wasting such names on C-rate Hollywood celebs.
Octopus rubescens photos courtesy of Kirt Onthank (April 2007) from wallawalla.edu