An aquarium in Georgia thought they were housing one male octopus. But, according to LiveScience, that all changed overnight.
One day Octavius was thought to be a male, and the next day it was discovered she was a new mom, and her surprise clutch of eggs had hatched into thousands and thousands of babies.
LiveScience noted that it's an easy mistake to make — male and female octopuses are basically identical except for some slight tentacle differences. And the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium had only recently acquired the octopus a few months ago, according to the Savannah Morning News.
The aquarium believed her to be male, set her up with a tank and that was that.
For a while, Octavius was sociable, often spreading her tentacles on the glass to seemingly say hello to visitors.
Then she suddenly started retreating to her rock cave shelter in the back of the tank. Now, the reason why seems incredibly clear.
She was preparing for motherhood.
According to the Savannah Morning News, octopuses can store sperm for long periods of time, so they can wait to lay their eggs during optimal conditions. After a couple of months at the aquarium, Octavius clearly felt the time was right to breed. And boy did she deliver.
Aquarium curator Devin Dumont told the Savannah Morning News that he came in one day to see thousands of swimming white specks in Octavius' tank. He began feverishly scooping out the babies and putting them in buckets to decide what to do with them. "A sort of panic ensued," he said.
"There were just buckets and buckets and buckets full of tiny [octopuses]."
Some of those buckets have now been released back to the wild, according to the Savannah Morning News, while others have been transported to the nearby Shellfish Research lab. Still others found a home in nursery tanks at the UGA aquarium.
Now that her procreation is complete, things aren't looking up for Octavius. All octopus moms enter what's called a death spiral after their eggs hatch.
As Azula reported, it's not a pretty sight. The moms start to slowly lose their minds and begin to fanatically groom themselves, tangling their tentacles into knots. Then they start to eat themselves.
Azula reported that scientists believe they kill themselves so they don't eat their young.
Without Mom around to feast on them, the little octopuses hatch and enter the water column near the surface, according to Scientific American. There, they feast on microscopic meals until they're big enough to come down to the seafloor, eat crabs and start their own reproductive missions.
Eventually that results in another giant cloud of teeny tiny octopuses ready to take on the world. What a wonderfully cute cycle.