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8-Legged Mom Has 50,000 Babies: 2-Legged Woman Watches

Filed by KOSU News in Science.
June 6, 2011

After my last post, the one about giant Pacific octopus moms and their 50,000-plus babies, Laurynn Evans, a reader in Seattle, sent me a video. Laurynn, it turns out, often spends her winter evenings diving into the ocean, not too far from Harbor Avenue in downtown West Seattle. (Don’t ask why, people in Seattle are just different from you and me.) A couple of years ago, not far from the shore, she discovered a giant Pacific octopus doing exactly what I described — having babies.

In the video, you can see it all: the octopus in her underwater den protected by rocks; braids of octopus eggs; the mom blowing on the eggs to keep them clean and aerated; then, at around 1:52 in this video, there it is — the first hatchling! What we don’t see, because Laurynn spared us, is the mom after all her work. As we explained in the last post, this is her last act.

But that first baby — it’s so itsy bitsy! At about 2:08 in, Laurynn shows us one floating by her glove. It is amazing that these little guys (well two of them anyway…see the previous post) can grow to three times the size of a human and end up weighing 120 pounds.

Laurynn says once the babies started coming (and around 6 minutes in, they are coming in cascades) “my team and I returned to the den nightly for eight nights, staying as long as our gas supply allowed.”

At the end of the tape, Laurynn, her diving buddy Kathryn, and a guy named “D,” break out bottles of beer to salute the 50,000 newborns. Call me old fashioned, but I will never understand how anybody can look so totally happy diving, chugging beers and singing happy birthday songs in wintery cold ocean water. But 50,000 bundles of joy can warm a person up, I suppose.

Thank you, Laurynn.

And then, a delighted double-thank you to another pair of readers, Allie & Eran of Sound Semantics in Portland, Oregon. They are musicians. When they read the octopus post, they got a little jiggy and in a couple of days composed, designed and animated an original music video. They call it “Cephalomama.”

Am I blushing?

I am.

“We used puppets to represent the octopi and wrote a miniature narrative from the perspective of the lucky surviving offspring after all this,” Allie wrote.

Here it is! [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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