Over 70 octopus experts and enthusiasts gathered at the Seattle Aquarium on Saturday, March 29 for our second biennial giant Pacific octopus (GPO) workshop. The day-long event highlighted current research on Enteroctopus dofleini, the world’s largest species of octopus. Included in the day’s agenda were several papers and roundtable discussions about octopus husbandry, biology, physiology, ecology and behavior.
The Seattle Aquarium has a long history of exhibiting octopuses—and GPOs are even found directly in the waters below our pier. We’re currently researching GPOs, using genetic markers for population analysis to determine if unique and separate populations of this species exist between Puget Sound, the outer Washington coast, and Oregon. Dr. Shawn Larson, the Aquarium’s curator of conservation research, presented the latest findings from this research at event. What Dr. L arson has found out thus far is that there is genetic structuring between octopuses in Puget Sound, the outer coast of Washington, Oregon and Vancouver Island. This shouldn’t be surprising because, as adults, octopuses don’t travel very far—so their greatest migrations occur during the first four months of their lives, when they are planktonic larvae. Analysis of several females and their egg strings pointed to octopuses employing multiple paternity (or mating with several males) when reproducing to ensure genetic diversity in the female’s one and only clutch of 20,000–100,000 eggs before she dies.
The event concluded with a remembrance of Dr. Roland C. Anderson, longtime Aquarium biologist and world-renowned GPO expert.
The next GPO workshop is scheduled for March of 2016. To learn more about GPOs, click here—and come see them in person at the Seattle Aquarium!