It seems like some pregnancies last a lot longer than others, but a deep sea octopus may have the longest one yet.
Lots of animals have long gestations periods, but a certain species of deep see octopus may have the longest gestation period of any animal on the planet.
A group of researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Northern California was exploring a deep part of the ocean when they found a female octopus who had recently laid her eggs.
The researchers checked on the octopus and her eggs month after month and noticed that she guarded the nest very closely.
The months turned into years and the mother octopus never strayed away from her nest. After four and a half years, the eggs finally hatched.
The mother octopus had not eaten during the time she was guarding her eggs and the researchers watched as she became much smaller and weaker over the years. As soon as the eggs hatched, the mother octopus died.
— EarthSky (@earthskyscience) August 3, 2014
Researchers believe that the Octopus guarded her eggs as long as she could to ensure that they had the best chance of survival and were not eaten by other sea creatures.
Octopi that live in deeper waters lay fewer eggs than those that live in shallow waters, so it is important that as many babies survive as possible. While many animals will guard their nests and their young for long periods of time, no other animal does it for four years. Scientists are anxious to learn more about this species of octopus and its gestation.
"This is the longest brooding or gestation of any animal on the planet," said Brad Seibel, an animal physiologist at the University of Rhode Island
The discovery has inspired the researchers to study more deep sea octopi and their gestations.
What do you think of the mother’s commitment to her eggs?
Image via Wikimedia Commons