Octopus with her baby eggs

Do Octopuses Die After Giving Birth?

The short answer is yes, octopuses die after giving birth. But stick around for the long answer—it’s fascinating! And, of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

Octopus protecting festoons

An octopus’s last stand

After a female octopus lays her eggs, she devotes the final leg of her life to making sure her baby octopuses stand a chance. This devotion can look different depending on the species. 

In some cases, an octopus finds/builds a den and attaches her eggs to the walls or ceiling of the den, then spends a heck of a long time braiding them into chains that double as den décor. 

Octo-moms may also lay their eggs on or under rocks or corals, then brood over them, protecting them from predators at all costs.

blue ringed octopus giving birth

During the months or YEARS that follow egg-laying, an octo-mom’s sole purpose becomes protecting those babies as they develop. She won’t even leave the eggs to hunt for food—and, in fact, the part of the octopus’s brain that governs her urge to eat shuts that urge down

As a result, the octo-mom slowly starves. She dies around the same time her babies hatch. (Are you sob-singing the Circle of Life in your head right now too?)


🐙 Octopus Fun Fact

To learn more about how an octopus’s brain functions during the brooding stage, scientists in 1977 tested female octopuses by removing an octopus’s optic gland (that’s the one responsible for shutting down an octo-mom’s urge to eat).

Apparently, without its optic gland, the octopus gave up on her eggs, resumed eating and kept on living for quite a while.

octopus with eggs- ellen muller
By: Ellen Muller

The science of senescence 

The process of physical deterioration and behavioral changes that begin after an octopus lays her eggs and ultimately leads to her demise is called senescence. This process is controlled by the optic gland using a cocktail of multiple hormones and occurs in octo-dads, too, even though eggs do not receive paternal care! 

It is still a bit of a mystery, but continued research is shedding more light on senescence

Octopus die after giving birth

Along with the seemingly unnatural behavior of months- or years-long fasting after egg laying, octo-moms also sometimes exhibit disturbing self-mutilating behavior during this phase of their lives. Scientists also tie this behavior to the optic gland and the hormones it secretes during senescence.

Selfless Protectors: Octopus Mothers!!!📚👉 When a den has been chosen, the mother octopus will expel each egg, one by one. She will then use her suckers to braid strands of them together into strong chains she attaches to the roof of her den.🥚 The whole process, which may involve birthing and braiding around 50,000 eggs in all, will take her perhaps as much as a month. While taking fierce care of her eggs she continuously wafts currents of oxygenated water, never leaving to eat. During this time her body undergoes cellular suicide, senescence, reaching the tissues and organs resulting in uncoordinated movement, lack of appetite, white unhealing lesions on the body, and ultimately death.🍼 Octopus hatchlings are born without the guidance of parents & immediately become hunters, left to figure out the big ocean through observation! When you see a decent sized octopus know that it is the less than 2% of ~50,000 eggs that reach full maturity!🎥: @lutfu_tanriover

Posted by Octonation – The Largest Octopus Fan Club on Friday, April 27, 2018
By: Lutfu Tanrıover

🐙 Octopus Fun Fact

The exception to the rule alert! 

Most but not all female octopuses follow the pattern of egg laying, senescence, and death that more or less coincide with their eggs hatching. 

Lesser Pacific Striped Octopuses and Greater Pacific Striped Octopuses are two species that break the semelparity mold by laying multiple clutches of eggs during their lifetimes. 

So, do octopuses die after giving birth?

Mostly… the answer is yes.

There are always those family weirdos who do things differently, but for the most part, octopuses die after they give birth. From our perspective as humans, that feels a little bit sad. But from the octopuses’ perspective, it’s not sad at all, c’est la vie.

🐙 Octopus Fun Fact

If you enjoyed this post, check out our blog that delves even further into how octopuses give birth! 

If you want to educate yourself some more about all sorts of different cephalopods, take a look at our encyclopedia. Or, what we call it, our Octopedia!

Connect with other octopus lovers via the OctoNation Facebook group, OctopusFanClub.com! Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with the conservation, education, and ongoing research of cephalopods.

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