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Free Content Clarification of the Western Atlantic Ocean Pygmy Octopus Complex: The Identity and Life History of Octopus Joubini (Cephalopoda: Octopodinae)

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Over the past decade, evidence accumulated by several groups of independent investigators suggested that there were at least two species of octopuses referred to in literature accounts as Octopus joubini Robson, 1929. Since Robson's (1929) original description of the gravid, female holotype collected at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, virtually the entire body of literature on the systematics, biology and life history of O. joubini has incorporated specimens collected from two shallow water Florida localities: Biscayne Bay and St. Joseph Bay. Both populations produce large eggs (6–8 mm long) and benthic hatchlings. The second pygmy species produces small eggs (2–5 mm long) and planktonic hatchlings. Based on examination of ovarian eggs from the holotype of O. joubini Robson, 1929, it has been determined that the small egg form, not the large egg form of the western Atlantic Ocean pygmy octopus, supports the name O. joubini. Octopus mercatoris Adam, 1937, is also referable to this complex but it is not now known whether it is conspecific with the large or small egg pygmy octopus or represents a third species in this complex. If not conspecific with O. mercatoris, the common, large egg species is undescribed. The first observations on the life history and biology of the “true” Octopus joubini were obtained from live animals collected south of Galveston, Texas and cultured in the laboratory. The species produces small eggs (2.3–4.8 mm long) that are attached individually to surrounding substrate. Maximum fecundity is 2,400 eggs and development requires approximately 35 days at 25°C. In all broods observed, the female deposits eggs over a minimum of 4 weeks resulting in all or most developmental stages being present by the time the first laid eggs complete their development. The planktonic hatchlings are 2.0–2.5 mm mantle length and have approximately 420 chromatophores. Two hatchlings were cultured through the planktonic stage to settlement in 21 days. Life span is temperature dependent and estimated to range from 6–12 months.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 1991

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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