Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Red Octopus hatch and Marine Exhibit Update

There has been a lot happening in the Marine Exhibit over the past few weeks. Since we have been closed to the public I thought I would make a blog post to inform you about recent events in the aquarium of the Port Townsend Marine Science Center.
Emily and Amber removing Feather Duster Worms, Eudistylia vancouveri, from the Piling Tank

In the beginning of November we took down the piling and cluster tanks. Running a free circulating saltwater aquarium involves a lot of maintenance. The water you see in our tanks comes in unfiltered and contains many planktonic animals looking for a suitable surface to settle onto and grow. Every winter we take down our tanks and let them dry out so that we can thoroughly clean all the plumbing. You would be amazed at how much can grow inside all the pipes in just one season! All four of the AmeriCorps members worked together to clean out the tanks. We are able to get it done all in one day, and had a blast cleaning the tanks and releasing all the animals.

The 2012-2013 AmeriCorps crew, Emily Neal, Amber Heasley, Megan Veley and Danae Presler

After spending the summer months educating visitors about marine habitat, our resident fish and marine invertebrates are returned to their homes in the ocean in the same or similar place in which they were collected. Check out the video of one of the two Red Octopuses we had this year being released right off the PTMSC dock! For those of you that know the exhibit, this was the octopus that was in the rocky cluster tank, living in the empty barnicle.

Saturday homecrew volunteers with their cleaning tools

Wednesday homecrew goofs off before feeding the animals
There are a few animals that are year-long residents, but most only spend a few months of their lives here with us. We are currently running twice weekly homecrews where an amazing team of dedicated volunteers help clean the tanks and feed the animals that will stay with us this winter.
This picture was taken by Elise when R2's eggs were first discovered this July

As many of you have seen on our facebook page, our little Red Octopus’s eggs began to hatch while a volunteer was cleaning her tank during homecrew last week. Our Red Octopus, Octopus rubscens, named R2 was collected by a diver on March 31st, 2012. Her eggs were first discovered on July 14th, 2012 and they began hatching on December 1st, 2012. After mating, the Red Octopus is able to hold sperm until it is ready to lay eggs. This means that our octopus had mated before she was collected. They lay a few thousand to tens of thousands of eggs (I have found 4,000-45,000 and 1,000-19,000 and 2,000-3,000 in different scientific papers.) Hatching usually occurs over a week or so. It took our octopuses eggs 20 weeks or 140 days to hatch. After hatching, the octopus larvae live planktonically, meaning they are drifters in the ocean. Because of this, raising baby Red Octopus in captivity is incredibly difficult and has never been successfully done. After our octopus eggs hatched, we removed the babies and released them into the ocean so they would have the best chance at survival. A few were kept for observation in a planktonkriesel tank, which is specially designed to hold planktonic organisms. R2’s eggs should continue to hatch for about another week or so. After they have all hatched, R2 will die. Octopuses lay only one clutch of eggs in their life. After laying eggs, the females stop eating and spend all their time guarding and tending to the eggs. After the eggs hatch the mothers die. Red Octopuses live for only about 2 years.
Emily and Danae worked together to get some amazing microscope pictures of the newly hatched octopus larvae.
Check out those Chromatophores!!
 The Red Octopus hatchlings are about the size of a grain of rice and have visible chromatophores, the specialized cells that give octopuses their spectacular color-changing ability.

Check out our YouTube video of the Red Octopus eggs hatching!

Our Giant Pacific Octopus, G3PO, spreads out upon first being released into the round tank.
 We have also recently moved our Giant Pacific Octopus to the large round tank since it has been growing so fast. She seems to be right at home in her new tank and has a new favorite food of choice, Scallops! She went on a rampage right after moving in and devoured most of the Scallops in the tank. This move required a little bit of shuffling around, the Puget Sound King Crab is back in the wall tank and the Rock Fish and Red Irish Lord have been given a temporary home in a large fiberglass tank in the middle of the exhibit. They will have to share their old tank with the GPO for a few more months until the GPO grows too big and will be released to find a mate and continue her life in our wonderful Salish Sea!

Come by and check out the changes to the Marine Exhibit the weekend after Christmas, December 28th,29th, and 30th from 12-4 with the public feed at 2pm Saturday. It will be your last chance until the exhibit re-opens April 5th 2013!

Please continue to follow us on our facebook for more updates from the Port Townsend Marine Science Center!
Amber Heasley
AmeriCorps Marine Exhibit Educator

1 comment:

  1. This is SO AWESOME! We get to see octopus here in AK in the tidepools, but they are usually hunkered in their dens and it's to watch their natural behavior. I miss you PTMSC!


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