We tend to think of our Eastern Pacific red octopus, Octopus rubescens, as a shy, slithering shape, blending easily with any relief it finds on the sandy bottom and occasionally using its ink sac in defense. However, there's more to the octopus's story. Its journey from egg to adult is filled with risk and uncertainty.
Red octopuses begin their life as small, white eggs that are well-hidden from predators under rocks or other flat surfaces on the seafloor. The eggs hang in delicate festoons, joined together by the chorion stalk on each egg. Rope-like stalks appear greenish in these images.
The female octopus tends, aerates, and guards the nest until the eggs begin to hatch. This final act marks the end of her life cycle.
The hatchlings, or paralarvae, are free-swimming, nearly transparent blobs. They seem ill-equipped to live completely exposed and unprotected as part of the plankton. With poorly developed tentacles and few suckers, they receive nutrients from their remaining yolk sac until they can feed on tiny crustaceans.
Should they survive the rigors of a planktonic lifestyle, the paralarvae settle and undergo extensive and important physical changes necessary for a benthic lifestyle. Fascinating reading here: Biology of the Planktonic Stages of Benthic Octopuses
Before hatching, the paralarvae rotate 180 degrees so that their mantle lies against the membrane as seen below. Hatchlings have a special gland that enzymatically dissolves a portion of the chorion membrane so they can wiggle their way out.