A mothers ultimate sacrifice from Koos du Preez on Vimeo.
I really like octopi. As a species they are incredibly intelligent and there have been many documented incidences of their amazing problem-solving abilities and overall cleverness. But I had no idea about the tragic selflessness of the Octopi reproduction process - it seems so needlessly self-sacrificial. But maybe motherhood is like that and it's why all my friends with babies look so exhausted all the time.
Once the eggs have been laid the female uses a string to attach them to her lair. She spends her time watching over the eggs and protecting them from predators and blowing water over them to provide them with oxygen. This last approximately 50 days during that time she will not eat or sleep.
Once the eggs have all hatched the female will die of starvation and exhaustion leaving the babies which are about the size of a grain of rice to survive on their own. They become part of the plankton that floats on the top of the water and if they are lucky enough to survive the first six weeks they will gradually start to sink towards the bottom of the ocean as the develop and take on the shape of an octopus.
The reproduction of the octopus is rather disheartening they basically exist to reproduce. The average lifespan of an octopus is only five years however, for the octopuses that reproduce it is almost half that at 2.5 years old. (source)There's often a tendency to believe that the capacity to do wonderful, selfless things is strictly a human impulse. I don't believe that these female Octopi understand or think through why they are doing what they're doing, but I also don't think most selfless acts are rationalized or deeply considered. There's some instinct, which occasionally bubbles to the surface that makes conscious beings sacrifice themselves for others.
Dan would say it's all about biology - survival of the gene pool and pure drive - and he's probably right. But at the risk of sounding like a ridiculous hippie, I prefer to think that it's all about the love, baby.