How Does an Octopus Reproduce?

Female octopuses reproduce by first fertilizing their eggs with the sperm from a male and then depositing and caring for her eggs. The young octopuses, however, must care for themselves. They must secure food and avoid predators in order to grow, mature and eventually reproduce themselves.

Males transfer sperm by using a specialized arm called a hectocotylus. The males of many species simply insert this specialized arm into the female’s mantle, but in some species, the male octopus actually detaches its arm and gives it to the female. The female carries the arm with her until she is ready to deposit eggs, at which time she transfers the sperm from the arm to the eggs.

Once fertilized, the eggs take up to 10 months to hatch. During this time, the female cares for the eggs diligently. She not only protects them from predators but also aerates the nest by gently blowing water over them. Once the young hatch, they may either rise to the surface to live among the plankton or travel to the bottom to grow and develop. Octopuses do not live very long lives; few survive for more than five years. Most male octopuses die shortly after mating.