The Process of Senescence in Giant Pacific Octopuses

Published May 31, 2022

Giant Pacific Octopuses are highly advanced creatures with impressive intelligence and countless adaptations. Although their larger size sets them apart from other species, these multi-armed marine mollusks share a common characteristic among all octopuses—their short average life span.

GPOs have an average life span of about 3–5 years. As they near end life, the octopuses begin to deteriorate through a process known as senescence, often displaying symptoms such as cell deteriorations, self-mutilation, loss of appetite, dulling color and uncoordinated movement. Although it may seem sad to us, senescence is a natural, normal process that happens to GPOs both in the wild and in human care.

Senescence can differ in male and female GPOs. As semelparous creatures, female octopuses often enter senescence after laying their eggs—producing a single reproductive episode before death, rather than several cycles over a lifetime. After reproducing, female GPOs brood their eggs, never leaving them until they hatch and often starving as a result. On the contrary, male GPOs do not return to their dens after mating—making them less likely to survive due to predation.

Despite being short-lived animals, Giant Pacific Octopuses are complex creatures with a unique set of behaviors and innate characteristics. Continued learning about this species results in respect for their natural way of life, which we strive to promote and protect as we observe GPOs up-close at Wonders of Wildlife.