Giant Octopus eggs hatching at Alaska SeaLife Center, the first place to look for a dive instructor

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Posted by on April 14, 2005 at 07:35:59:

Baby Giant Octopus Video

Seward, Alaska - Itís another first for the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. A female octopus named Aurora is now a mom -- and quite a protective one at that.

Just a few feet from the SeaLife Centerís biggest attraction, quietly rests the smallest. Aurora, a giant Pacific octopus surprised many people last fall when she successfully mated. You have to look very closely to see the result -- fertile eggs.

Staff members say that, all winter long, Aurora has been very protective.

"If you go up with a strong flashlight and shine it against some of the eggs that are exposed and visible, she instantly reaches down with a tentacle and covers up the eggs to prevent that light from disturbing them," says Richard Hocking of the center. "Thatís one indication of how good sheís taking care of them."

All the careful attention has apparently paid off. Of all the thousands of eggs laid months ago, nine hatched this week -- a first for the SeaLife Center.

"Right now, they look like a little stout, short, stubby squid," said Hocking. "They pulse along -- the difference being, a squid has 10 arms and an octopus has eight -- but they do look remarkably like a little squid."

They are only two-tenths of an inch long, but itís a precious project. Few aquariums ever try anything like this, so itís a bit of an experiment. The hatched octopuses are set aside in a bucket where researchers have simulated the ocean currents and temperatures as best they can.

"The water flow in the tank kind of blows up, and itís going to keep all their food in suspension, hopefully giving them more of a chance to attack the food and a better shot at eating," said Ed Decastro (below), who helps keep the system running.

In the next couple of months, Auroraís job as protector will be over. Then, as happens in the wild, she will die. She will have lived longer than most of her kind and, although her legacy is unclear, we at least have one remarkable image.

Officials expect more eggs will hatch in the coming weeks. They hope to raise at least one of the young to a full-sized adult.

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