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Rare argonaut octopus hatches 6,500 babies in SoCal (PHOTOS/VIDEO)

argonaut (paper nautilus)

Photo via Facebook.com/CabrilloMarineAquarium

CMA staffers are caring for this argonaut, caught by a surprised fisherman on Oct. 13.

Argonaut hatchling

Photo via Facebook.com/CabrilloMarineAquarium

Argonaut hatchling at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (CMA).

newborn argonauts in dish

Tracy Irons-Georges

On October 21, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium staff member Chris Bautista shows visitors a dish filled with argonaut larvae. The octopus' 6,500 offspring hatched six hours earlier, surprising the aquarium’s researchers.

Argonaut eggcase guy

Tracy Irons-Georges

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium staff member Chris Bautista displays an argonaut “shell,” which is actually an eggcase. This thin structure gives the argonaut octopus its alternate name of paper nautilus.

newborn argonauts

Tracy Irons-Georges

A screen gives visitors to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium a magnified view of newborn argonauts swimming under a microscope.

Argonaut

Tracy Irons-Georges

A staff member at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium points to the female argonaut floating near the surface of its tank. Its offspring were being scooped into a separate tank.

Wikimedia Commons

A female Argonaut with eggs.


rare, ancient, mythical argonaut octopus was caught by a fisherman a few miles out from L.A. Harbor earlier this month, reports the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium (CMA).

The argonaut — or "paper nautilus" — though common in tropical and subtropical waters, is not often found in SoCal's cooler seas. Its presence here suggests the creature was deposited by warm water currents.

The out-of-towner octopus was scurried to CMA in San Pedro where staffers have been learning what they can about it. 

One thing they learned is that the crafty cephalopod was carrying fertilized eggs in her shell. They learned this when 6,500 of them hatched.

Said CMA Director Mike Schaadt in the exciting announcement:

"This is the first time eggs of this species of octopus have hatched at CMA and one of the few times anywhere else in the world. ... Very little is known about this tropical/subtropical animal including the number of hatchlings a female can release at one time."

News of the argonaut also presents an opportunity to "learn about our local ocean," said Schaadt. 

Sharing information, photos and video of the argonaut gives people a chance to find out about an animal that normally can’t survive off our coast...This is all part of our mission to promote knowledge, appreciation and conservation of the marine life of Southern California."

A BIT ABOUT ARGONAUTS

  • Argonauts are a type of octopus.
  • They eat plankton, krill, shrimp and pelagic snails.
  • Female argonauts grow to be about 18 inches and create a thin, laterally compressed calcareous shell, which is secreted and formed by the first arm from a wide sail-like lobe. The shell has one chamber that is used as a brood pouch for eggs.
  • Male argonauts grow to be only one inch and have a highly modified third arm used to carry sperm to the female. This modified arm is called a hectocotylus, which breaks away from the male during mating and actually crawls into the female to remain until the female is ready to fertilize her eggs.

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