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Hundreds of Baby Reef Octopi Born at North Kingstown Aquarium

Pearl, a reef octopus, native to the Caribbean, laid around one-hundred fifty and two hundred eggs at the center last year. Many of them hatched over the weekend. It’s the first time this has happened at the center in its twenty year history.

Pearl laid eggs in her tank at the end of November and took care of the egg strands in the weeks that followed. They are rarely found in local waters, but occasionally find their way to New England during the summer when the waters are warmer. Pearl was collected by a volunteer earlier this fall.

Reef octopuses have a 1-year lifespan and the laying of eggs signifies the end of the female octopus’s life. The babies will grow quickly and reach 75 percent of their full size in roughly four months. The baby octopuses and their mother can be visited at Biomes Monday through Friday, from noon to 5 p.m., and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The center said many of the baby octopuses will stay at Biomes and others will be donated to aquariums and science centers throughout New England.

It’s a very rare occurrence in New England, says executive director Mark Hall, because the octopus, which was caught in New England waters, must have bred in the wild. “The fact that she bred at some point this summer, is amazing because she had to have found a male, and they’re very rare. I’ve only seen three or four of them in my life”, said Hall.

Hall says the babies are growing swiftly; feeding ravenously on plankton supplied by Roger Williams University. However, the birth signals the end of Pearl’s life, as reef octopus have life spans of only about a year, and die after their young hatch.