There’s no need to panic, this isn’t the invasion of alien life-forms. It’s the birth of a baby octopus.
A 10-second video of a baby Caribbean Reef octopus (Octopus briareus) being hatched has been watched more than 600,000 times since it was first posted to Twitter by the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center Wednesday morning. It is the first attempt to hatch octopuses at the aquarium, said Julie Levans, senior curator of fishes, herpetology and invertebrates. She added that about 15 to 20 baby octopuses have been born over the past few days.
“Part of the aquarium’s mission is to educate and inspire conservation of the marine environment and this was a really exciting time . . . for us to be able to share something that is not often seen and then talk about it with our fans and really provide the science behind what’s happening,” said Matthew Klepeisz, a spokesperson for the Virginia Beach aquarium.
Amid comments about how cute baby octopuses are, viewers were also able to learn more about octopuses, for example why the baby octopus — which was colorless before and during hatching — rapidly turned brown as it shot out of its egg sac.
In response to questions, staff tweeted that it is not unusual for baby octopuses to change color immediately after birth because the stress of hatching causes the octopuses’ chromatophores, or cells that contain pigment, to fire. But they don’t stay brown.
Klepeisz said the growing hype around the video has been “absolutely overwhelming.”
“It’s such a really special moment to be able to share with people and for people to react and be just as excited and just as interested as we are,” he said.
While it is not expected that all the babies born will survive, Levans said the aquarium staff will provide their best animal care with the goal of raising some to adulthood.
“We are going to feed them as much as we can, make sure that they have impeccable water quality and all of their needs are completely met and hopefully we will be successful,” she said.
But before everyone makes a mad dash to the aquarium, Levans said the octopus exhibit will not feature the offspring until they grow to be the size of a golf ball.
“Right now they’re about the length of your pinkie nail,” she said. “Super tiny, super adorable.”