animal Type
Maximum Size

81 cm

(32 inches) total length


90–3,000 m

(300–9,800 feet)




Seafloor invertebrates

including snails, worms, and crabs



in the North Pacific Ocean, from Japan to Russia to Alaska to Baja California


Meet a dedicated mother.

After mating, an octopus mom finds a suitable spot on the seafloor to lay her eggs. There, she deposits her eggs and meticulously tends to her nest. She shields her developing young from hungry predators and pesky neighbors. She uses her siphon to bathe her growing offspring with fresh seawater and cleans them with her arms. We call this behavior brooding.

Octopuses that live in shallow waters brood their embryos for a couple of months until the eggs hatch. But life moves more slowly in the frigid waters of the deep sea. We were stunned to learn just how long a deep-sea octopus mom broods her young.

The warty deep-sea octopus (Graneledone sp.) is one of the most common deep-water octopuses in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. In April 2007, we observed a female Graneledone pacifica investigating a rocky outcropping. When we returned a month later, we saw the same octopus—identified by distinctive scars on her body—clinging to the rocky ledge and brooding a clutch of approximately 160 teardrop-shaped eggs. We returned periodically to monitor this mother. 

As the years passed, her translucent eggs grew larger and we could see young octopus developing inside. Over the same period, the female gradually lost weight, and her skin became loose and pale. Nevertheless, she remained vigilant in protecting her developing young. When we visited the brooding site in October 2011, she was gone. All that remained were the tattered remnants of empty egg capsules—her eggs had hatched, and her work was done.

As with most other cephalopods, a warty deep-sea octopus mom dies after she reproduces. She does not leave her nest while brooding her young, and lives off energy reserves in her body tissues. An octopus mother makes the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the survival of her young. Her babies emerge much larger and better developed than those of other octopuses and squids—Graneledone hatchlings are fully capable of surviving on their own and hunting for small prey.

At four and a half years, Graneledone pacifica holds the record for the longest incubation period of any animal on Earth. Deep-sea animals grow slowly, live a long time, reproduce later in life, and often brood their young for an extended period of time. That life history makes them especially sensitive to changes in their environment. They cannot bounce back from disturbances as quickly as their kin closer to the surface. We must speak up for protecting vulnerable deep-sea animals and environments. Share what you have learned, and help us grow our community of ocean champions.


Video Clips


Drazen, J.C., S.K. Goffredi, B. Schlining, and D.S. Stakes. 2003. Aggregations of Egg-Brooding Deep-Sea Fish and Cephalopods on the Gorda Escarpment: a Reproductive Hot Spot. The Biological Bulletin, 205: 1–7.