Octopus J-1 had the right stuff, mate Aurora lays eggs

Posted: Thursday, June 17, 2004

ANCHORAGE - J-1 was doing more than whispering sweet nothings to Aurora as the two clutched each other in a deep embrace in a secluded corner last month.

It turns out that J-1 had all the right moves. Aurora is happily laying long strings of nearly translucent eggs in her tank.

"She basically stays there hanging on the wall, and the eggs are extruded and sent out of her mantle," Richard Hocking, aquarium curator at the Alaska SeaLife Center, said Wednesday.

Aurora, a Giant Pacific octopus, began laying eggs last weekend by dribbling them down the sides of her tank. Lately, she's taken to laying discrete clusters. She could lay 60,000 to 100,000 eggs - about what's expected from a Giant Pacific octopus.

She likes to use one or more of her eight arms to gently move the eggs and press them to the walls of her 3,600-gallon tank, part of the Seward center's "Denizens of the Deep" exhibit.

Aquarists at the center could only wonder what went on the morning of May 11 when the aging J-1 - who up until then had lived a strictly bachelor life - was introduced to the slightly younger Aurora.

During their brief but oh-so-intense encounter, when they were both gripping the back of the tank and his body nearly covered hers, did J-1 pass his spermatophore packet to Aurora? Did she accept it? Would she choose to conceive?

That's right, female Giant Pacific octopuses can choose to conceive in what is known as delayed fertilization. Apparently, J-1 had the right stuff.

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