An octopus is a soft-bodied marine creature with eight arms called tentacles. They fall under the class of Cephalopoda, or cephalopods in layman's terms, under the order of Octopoda. They are invertebrates, and their sizes vary from around 5 centimeters only up to 6 meters in length based on records.
Octopuses are packed with extreme intelligence. But even though they are brilliant, they tend to have a short life span. This is because the life cycle of an octopus has just 4 stages: the egg, larva, juvenile, and adult. Sadly, with the unique octopus life cycle, males die within a few months of mating while the female dies soon after the hatching of the eggs.
Reproduction: Before the New Life Cycle
Mating, their form of reproducing, is a serious matter for the octopuses. The reason is that with two hundred thousand eggs laid, only one percent can survive and could reach adulthood. Thus, the species of these cephalopods is a massive factor in the octopus life cycle. It determines how long they can live, between 2-5 years.
Octopuses can actually grow rapidly. Researches show that octopuses that are young can grow by 5% every day due to their metabolic rate. This happens until they have reached their maturity, where they can start reproducing.
Then, a mated female and male octopus can produce only 1 batch of eggs, and afterward, they die. This marks the end of the parents' purpose and the beginning of a new octopus life cycle.
Octopus Life Cycle: The Stages
As we have discussed with you earlier, there are 4 stages of the octopus life cycle. Here are the following details about each one:
Stage 1: The Egg
The octopus lays eggs after its fertilization. Its eggs can measure about 0.3 cm length. An octopus, like the common one or O. Vulgaris, can lay more than ten thousand eggs. The female octopus hides them in tiny holes and perhaps, under the rocks. Until they hatch, the mother cleans the eggs regularly until the day that they hatch. The female octopus is known to protect her eggs carefully, which can even be sacrificial.
Stage 2: The Larva
After 4 to 8 weeks of development, the larval octopus hatches. Even just being newly hatched, the larval octopuses are on their own. They are usually called octopods. So, they stay right at the ocean's surface and even look like adult octopuses.
At first, these octopods can drift in a plankton for long before proceeding to the ocean’s bottom. During this stage, the primary sources of food of these octopods are larval lobsters, larval crabs, and larval starfish. However, they can stay on plankton for longer periods, and octopods regularly feed on it.
At some point in time, whenever they are ready, they will swim down and stay at the bottom of the ocean.
Stage 3: The Adulthood or Juvenile
At this stage of the octopus life cycle, they became juvenile octopuses from larva, a sign of growth. After that, they start to develop in a rapid stride. Their weight can be increased by five percent every day due to their continual feeding habits. During the final stage of the octopus life cycle, its weight is equal to one-third of the food that the octopus has taken up.
The larval octopus can just enter the adult stage if the odds are in its favor. This uncertainty is due to the fact of the short life expectation of the octopuses.
Stage 4: The Adult
Now that the octopuses have reached the adult stage, they have become mature sexually and are officially prepared to mate. When they find their partner, an adapted arm, called the hectocotylus, is being used by the male octopus to deliver sperm into the mantle cavity of the female octopus.
Then, after a few months of successfully mating, the male octopuses die. Thus, leaving the female to protect the eggs until the time that they hatch. When all the eggs have hatched, the mother also dies. In addition, its sperm can be stored through definite species of octopuses several weeks after their mating.
Other Things to Note: The Female Octopuses after Reproduction
On the other side of things, we must understand that the end of the life cycle of an octopus who is a mated female can be grim. Although they are very protective over their eggs, sit with them, and make sure that they are clean, the mother slowly wastes away. Thus, this begins at the end of their life cycle.
According to a study by the University of Chicago Medical Center, a reason for this is their optic gland. When they are actively hunting for food and eating it, they produce a high level of neuropeptides. Now, these small protein molecules are used to communicate with other animals. However, after mating, they do drop off quickly.
This may be due to the protectiveness of mother octopuses. They are fast and decline rapidly. Thus, the supply of the neuropeptides also begins to go downhill. Whenever this happens, there will be changes to the molecular activities that affect the neurons and cause behavioral change. Now, the female octopuses' days are numbered until their eggs have hatched.
Octopuses are naturally known predators. But even if they are, they are still clever and resourceful marine creatures out in the vast ocean. In the vast expanse of this body water, they prefer to crawl instead of swimming. This is because they get exhausted even though they can swim fast.
No matter how many things we know about octopuses, a lot still needs to be discovered. However, exploring the octopus life cycle has a massive significance in providing perception into the life of water invertebrates.
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