Secrets of the Octopus Garden Unraveled in Ocean’s Deep Abyss

secrets of the octopus garden unraveled in ocean s deep abyss.jpg Science

In a world where the mysteries of the deep sea continue to baffle and intrigue us, a discovery of an ‘octopus garden’ has turned the spotlight on the enigmatic creatures of the deep. A staggering congregation of thousands of octopuses, specifically a species called Muusoctopus robustus, was discovered in 2018, about two miles below the ocean’s surface in a region known as the midnight zone. This unexpected find, nestled near the base of an extinct underwater volcano, has left marine scientists both flabbergasted and fascinated, leading to new investigations into these solitary creatures and their surprising social gathering.

These octopuses, nicknamed the pearl octopus due to their appearance while guarding their eggs, were found clustered around a hydrothermal vent, a warm, chemical-rich opening in the seafloor. This largest known aggregation of octopuses on the planet, with a count exceeding 6,000 in just one segment, raises intriguing questions. Why are they there? Why are they aggregating? According to senior scientist Jim Barry from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the warm waters emanating from the springs might be the key to the unusual breeding behavior of these creatures.

The Octopus Garden: Unveiling the Secrets of Deep-Sea Octopuses

Deep-sea octopuses, usually solitary inhabitants of frigid marine depths, surprised scientists in 2018 with the discovery of a colossal aggregation of more than 6,000 individuals at a hydrothermal vent two miles beneath the ocean’s surface. This unprecedented gathering, possibly numbering up to 20,000 octopuses, took place in the midnight zone, an area of perpetual darkness 10,500 feet down.

Uncovering the Octopus Garden

The octopuses, of a species named Muusoctopus robustus or "pearl octopus," were found around an extinct underwater volcano, the Davidson Seamount, located southwest of Monterey, California. The area, now referred to as the "octopus garden," saw these creatures nest around a hydrothermal vent emitting warm, chemical-rich waters.

The researchers believe the octopuses gather in such significant numbers to mate and nest, with the warm waters speeding up the embryonic development of their eggs. "By nesting at hydrothermal springs, octopus moms give their offspring a leg up,” explained Jim Barry, a senior scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and the lead author of the study.

Deep-Sea Technology Reveals Octopus Secrets

Utilizing state-of-the-art underwater technology, the researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and their colleagues conducted multiple follow-up dives to the site. They deployed the ROV Don Ricketts, a remotely operated submersible, which captured high-definition video footage of the octopuses and mapped the garden at a meter-scale resolution. The submersible also left a time-lapse camera and sensors to measure temperature and oxygen levels for long-term observations of the octopuses’ behavior.

Breeding Ground and Nursery

This extensive data allowed the scientists to document that the site is used exclusively as a breeding ground and nursery, with no evidence of feeding. The faster brood times observed in the octopus garden also suggested that the warmer waters from the hydrothermal vent offer a significant advantage, despite potential risks. "The shorter brood period is where the advantage comes in and that seems to play out perfectly for them because we see what looks to be fairly high hatch rates,” Barry said.

Continuing Research and Future Explorations

The researchers plan to continue studying the site at Davidson Mount and seek out similar locations that could host other octopus gardens. However, deep-sea exploration comes with high costs. Meanwhile, the mysteries of the octopus life cycle continue to unfold, with the warmth from thermal springs showing potential benefits for the creatures’ metabolism and egg incubation periods.


This discovery highlights the incredible adaptability of deep-sea creatures and their capacity to exploit even the most challenging environments. It also underscores the importance of our ongoing efforts to explore and understand the deep sea, an environment that remains one of the least explored on Earth. While technology allows us to delve deeper and uncover more, the cost remains a significant barrier. Nonetheless, every new finding, like this octopus garden, fuels curiosity and propels us forward in our quest for knowledge.

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