Octopus Lifespan: A Glimpse At An Octopus’s Circle Of Life!

Ever find yourself pondering about an octopus’s life? How long do they live? Do they adopt a healthy lifestyle in the hopes that they will live longer? What species lives the longest? Do females outlive males or vice versa? I know- it’s a lot! From popping out into the world from a tiny egg case to growing into the 8-arm wonders we all love, let’s take a journey through an octopus’s lifespan.

Roughly 300 species of octopus live in the ocean (I know- crazy right?!?), which naturally leads to many ways to live that octopus life. 

In general, octopuses have a relatively short lifespan. 

For example, the Common Octopus, Mimic Octopus, and Blue-Ringed Octopus live for around 12 – 18 months whereas the Giant Pacific Octopus can have a lifespan of 3-5 years! 

The one thing they all have in common is how they come in and out of this world. The rest is dependent on the species.

Blue-Ringed Octopus By: Brandon Ryan Hannan

🐙 Octopus Fun Fact

The longest living known octopus is the Northern Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini) who can survive between 3-5 years in the wild. However, a Deep Sea Octopus (Graneledone boreopacifica) was reported guarding its eggs for 4.5 years! 

Typically, octopuses spend about a quarter of their lives brooding, which means the Deep Sea Octopus’s lifespan could be 16-18 years! 

That would make it the oldest cephalopod species… more deep-sea exploration, please! 

On the other end of the spectrum, one of the tiniest octopuses, Star-Sucker Pygmy Octopus (Octopus wolfi), only lives for about 6 months.

Star-Sucker Pygmy Octopus
Star-Sucker Pygmy Octopus By: Brandon Ryan Hannan

A Glimpse At Every Stage Of An Octopus’s Life

Here is a breakdown of what an octopus goes through in its one life- everything from birth to death!

Stage 1: The Beginnings – Hatchling

Thanks to Octo-Mom, baby octopuses enter the world from an egg sac no greater than a pinky nail. 

After the mama octopuses braids all of her eggs in long festoons, the octopuses are incubated for about 30-40 days (sometimes longer)!

After incubating, they pop out from their tiny egg case that has been nestled amongst hundreds, or even thousands, of others.

???? It’s GAME ON for these fighting baby octos as thousands of them hatch and immediately begin hunting & observing the world 360 degrees around them ???? ????☀️ Octopus babies are attracted to light -This behavior likely because the paralarve need to swim upward to keep from sinking down from the plankton rich surface layers of the ocean! ????

Posted by Octonation – The Largest Octopus Fan Club on Tuesday, May 15, 2018

🐙 Octopus Fun Fact

Incubation periods can be wildly different between species! A female Giant Pacific Octopus will lay 120,000 – 400,000 eggs, which will hatch after about 6 months. 

Compare that to the Deep-Sea Octopus (Graneledone boreopacifica), who only lays 155 – 165 but will care for them for up to 53 months!

Tip: If you want to know more about mama octopuses and how they give birth, check out this awesome blog post to get the inside scoop! 

What does an octopus hatchling look like?

Amazingly, hatchlings come out immediately able to change colors! 

If you have ever seen a video of eggs hatching, you will see that the octopus is white while inside the egg sac and then turns grape purple right after it pops out! Super cool right!? 

Baby Octopus GIF by OctoNation - Find & Share on GIPHY

Baby octopuses spring forth into the world as miniature octopuses with:

They swim around using jet propulsion just like adults, too! 

How many octopus eggs actually hatch?

Unfortunately, survival rates for baby octopuses are low across all species with only one or two surviving out of the whole clutch. Due to their small size, and having almost no defenses when they are born, the mama octopus must lay thousands so that a small few will go on to grow into a full-size octopus and keep the population going.

Warmer temperatures generally allow babies to develop and hatch out faster because it increases metabolic processes. In colder waters, eggs incubate for a longer time. 

Take our octopus of the deep, Graneledone boreopacifica who cares for her eggs for 53 months. She lives in 3°C water, which means her babies will develop slower. These near-freezing water temperatures allows for her to keep her metabolism super low which is how she is able to incubate for so long!

Tiny Baby Octopus Swimming!

What should we name this one? We're thinking Jet ???????? We believe in you baby Octopus! ❤ (???? Larva) ????????#DidYouKnow After each tiny octopus hatches it's left to figure out the big ocean ???? alone, requiring no maternal care. Survival in the ocean is often a matter of luck- with less than 1% surviving into adulthood. – I have huge hopes for Jet though! ???? ????: elephant music: density of silenceJoin Octonation, The Largest Octopus Fan Club! 😀 #OctoNation #Octopus #Discoverocean

Posted by Octonation – The Largest Octopus Fan Club on Friday, March 24, 2017

Stage 2: Paralarvae

After leaving their egg cases, certain species of baby octopus swim towards the surface where they spend their early days floating amongst plankton. This period of their lives is when they are especially vulnerable. 

Almost everything in the ocean is bigger than an octopus hatchling which means even the tiniest fish is now a predator who can easily gobble them up! 

This is the planktonic stage where octopus hatchlings are called paralarvae. Think of it as the toddler years- in-between the hatchling and subadult phases.

Mimic octopus larvae
Mimic Octopus Larvae By: Eric S. Javier

🐙 Octopus Fun Fact

A study looking at Common Octopus paralarvae showed that they feed on zooplankton in the same manner as an adult would feed on a crab! They attack, immobilize, drill into, and then digest their prey using their radula and beak.

Stage 3: Subadult To Adulthood

The next life stage for an octopus is called a subadult (think teenage years). 

For benthic octopus species, this means settling on a reef and eating as much as possible. A Giant Pacific Octopus, for example, can increase their body weight by 1% per day. Having a short life means the octopus can’t waste time growing. 

The bigger it gets, the better the chances of survival!  

Once they reach adulthood, octopuses spend most of their time in solitary. No big hangouts or lunch dates for these cephalopods. They:

  • Pick out a home (commonly referred to as their den)
  • And, they only leave for a few hours each day in search of food or a mate. 

Think of an octopus’s den as its sanctuary. They can fully fit inside and the opening of the den is too small for predators to get through. 

There are some perks to being super squishy! An octopus’s den is the safest place in the ocean for them.

⚠️Caption This VideoSuper Squishy Mode: Activated ✅???? Can you imagine ALL of your bodily organs suspended in different free floating areas of your head?!????Octopuses are able to fit into small spaces, squeeze through tiny openings and cracks and hide in areas that would be inaccessible to most predators and vertebrate creatures.???????? Octopuses don’t really have the need for the structural support of bones because they live in a fluid underwater environment. It actually serves them better to be super flexible in many ways!???? However, they do rely on natural structures of the ocean for protection such as dens, rocks, and for some species, shells and coconuts.????Just another reason to fall in love (if you even needed one!)????Who do you know that needs to see this? feel free to share! ???? Video by our friends at Pelagic Ventures ScubaALSO⚠️????????: Octopuses aren’t fans of bright lights – so make sure if you ever take a photo of one at an aquarium that your flash is off! -????❤️x3 New members!Here are some quick questions for you…1) Where in the world are you joining us from?2) When did your fascination for octopus begin?3) Feel free to share your favorite octopus photos/art down below!4) Have any friends who share your love for octopus? You have permission to invite them ASAP!Without further ado, here are the new members!Kaitlynn Grimm,Sreekishen Nair,Vonia Bear,Carl Reeds,Lisa Houle,Brandon McCubbin,Chadd Gable,Aad Bastemeijer,Carrie Hammer,Jacob Fincher,Angela Hatfield,Lauren Koch,Meg Kempert,Paul Yahnig,Barbara Scoville,Hazel Angel M. Mendoza,Matt Anungunrama Glover,Juan Juan,Kathryn Hughes,Lena Skates,Helena Jasmine Gustafsson,Richard Clarkson,Hunter Ledbetter,Anette Jonassen,Hollie Miller,Lawrence Folorunsho Oke,Jennifer Parker Art,Vivian Wong,Abdulrauf Idris Dahiru,Jeanne-Marie Widmyer,Dan Macalady,Yunsandi Saw,Randi St,Tim Foxworthy,Annette Wilkinson,Carrie Pagley,Aireal Sage Robbins,Paul Wick,David Lettvin,Liane Fontaine Yahnig,Romane Sauzet,Katie Commins,Denise Sulot,Debbie Stember,Zack Rhodes,Llololio Sombra de Fuego,Siow Kian Weng,Õxýgêñ Õvê,Ram Prasad Sharma,Riley Klavohn,Linda Gaines,Inaz Khalisha,Lalou Héloïse,Jackie Calloway,Chloe Harrison,Jayne Hall,Raja Rajesh Tekchandany

Posted by Octonation – The Largest Octopus Fan Club on Saturday, April 13, 2019

Stage 4: Parenthood And Their Ultimate Demise

The death of an octopus is inexplicably linked with reproduction. 

After mating, both males and females will die in a process known as senescence. In an octopus, this time is characterized by:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Uncoordinated and limited movement
  • White lesions on the body that do not heal

Females enter this stage after they lay their eggs, sacrificing themselves to protect their babies till they hatch. Males also die shortly after mating from the same process…unless they’re not careful. 

Blue Ringed Octopus in senescence
Blue Ringed Octopus In Senescence By: Brandon Ryan Hannan

🐙 Octopus Fun Fact

In some species, like the Maori Octopus, the female will attempt to eat the male after mating… Yeah, I know it sounds a bit… intense BUT it’s a good source of protein and she needs all the energy she can get to lay her eggs and care for them.

From Beginning To End: This is An Octopus’s Lifespan!

And… that completes an octopus’s circle of life!

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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