Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Update: PTMSC's resident giant Pacific octopus

Sylvia weighs more than 20 pounds and is still growing

When our resident giant Pacific octopus (GPO), Sylvia, joined our collection in June 2020, he was a planktonic paralarva no bigger than a dime. Over two years later, Sylvia weighs more than 20 pounds and is still growing. GPOs live around 3-4 years and weigh 44-66 pounds when fully mature.
photo by Melissa Bixby

In the wild, GPOs are found from the rocky intertidal to the quiet depths, with many found in kelp forests. While Syvlia’s kelp forest is admittedly smaller than nature, it forms the base of the husbandry and enrichment program that keeps his physical and psychological needs met. 

As he matures, how we care for him adjusts to his changing needs. New and more challenging puzzle feeders, enhanced training, frequent meals, and a little extra attention are all components to providing the best possible experience for visitors and Syvia himself.

When mature, octopuses reproduce and then pass into their final life stage: senescence. To promote animal welfare, we aim to release octopuses as they reach maturity and before they enter senescence. 

Many visitors wonder how we determine when that is. Although age and weight can be general indicators, there are many additional physiological and behavioral indicators such as appetite, physical condition and changes in behavior patterns. So when will we release Sylvia? We don’t know yet, but we are watching carefully to find out. Until then, Sylvia continues to grow to maturity while showing visitors just how amazing and precious our marine environment and its inhabitants are.

Written by PTMSC Aquarist Ali Redman

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