[Octopus Eggs]: Trapper's Babies - Tank Raised Mercatoris

DWhatley

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Sistrurus and Medusa

After almost 6 months, I finally named the two babies that live in the 15 gallon. Sistrurus (pygmy rattlesnake) and Medusa (all you see of her is snake like arms).

Sistrurus is the most interactive pygmy I have found in any of the journals on TONMO. Anytime after the light go out in the room (timed at midnight) he will come out when he sees me sit in front of the aquarium. Unfortunately, I believe he is entering the senscense part of his life as he has quit eating live food and will only eat Cyclop-eeze. He pushes away any other offered (alive or freshly killed) but does not hide or ink when I offer it. He did reach up and take a shrimp offered to Medusa two days ago but just bit it to be sure it was dead and then threw it away. Additionally, his patterning appears incomplete when I take a flash picture (not detectable to the eye under the red light) and the arm movement that gave him a name may be the "cork screw" look mentioned in other posts. He does wander the tank for an hour or so early in the morning and I have seen him dash out at shrimp but he does not eat them. His poop is red (Cyclop-eeze) with some darker brown coloration so he may be eating something else during his late night tank crawl.

Knowing this, I was very sad tonight when he did not come out to greet (or warn me away) as he has been doing nightly. I can normally see his eye in his den anytime (day or night) and after 10 minutes of looking, I could not find him. I sat in my feeding chair depressed and was about to feed Medusa when I noticed a frantically waving curled up arm right at the front of the tank :mrgreen: It seems Sistrurus relocated and I just failed to see him right in front of me (his prior den was to the side and close to Medusa's).

Medusa continues to live in the LR and only display an arm or two when she detects Cyclop-eeze. She will nightly take one (and one only) freshly killed shrimp placed in an entrance hole and will eat a portion of it (not the whole thing). Tonight I tried one that had eggs thinking there might be more nutrition and she did eat all the eggs in addition to part of the tail and head (she ejects the remains when finished eating). Some nights she will eat some additional Cyclop-eeze and other she will just blow it away from her den.

I believe these two may have mated. They have lived together all their lives and have never displayed aggression toward each other. I have a photo of them in a barnacle cluster with one above the other. This is only conjecture. I am reasonably certain Sistrurus is a male because of the obvious large suckers on at least two front arms (I can't see his arms clearly enough to check for a hectocotylus and the arms are so small I am not sure I could detect it even with good lighting). I see nothing of Medusa but her arms but she is acting much like Trapper. Curiously, she does not display the curled up arm movement (one of the others has but not as dramatically, Sistrurus does this nightly when he first sees me).

I think I need to remove the live shrimp from their tank soon as I am afraid they will kill any babies that hatch (especially the peppermint that has lived in the tank for over a year).
 

DWhatley

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Trio in the 45 gallon tank

The three that were left in the larger tank all left their nets within two days of evacuating Sistrurus and Medusa. I located one quickly, the second after a week and the third not at all (one was always exceptionally shy). One has taken Trapper's den. I believe this one to also be female but she is much smaller than Trapper and has taken several shells into the barnacle to fill up the space. I believe she may be brooding as she does not come out of the den. She has been very reluctant to come out to feed but showed hunger tonight and pushed her doors away to eat. I will try offering a dead shrimp tomorrow night.

The second (largest of the 5) has been displaying for food a few minutes after I begin feeding and was also "missing" tonight. I located him (guessing on behavior only - this is the one that also showed the fast curled up arm tip movement) at the top of the tank behind the overflow. Later, I found him in the barnicle cluster (not the same barnacle) as the first. It seems strange that both potential males would move their dens on the same night.
 

DWhatley

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Octopoop

I took a picture of Sistrurus' poop because it tells something about what they are eating and no one could tell me what to look for when I was learning how to take care of Trapper. Although not so obvious in the picture, it looks a lot like a small brissle worm without the brissles. I never actually saw any of Trapper's feces but Sistrurus is not so modest (another reason for thinking he is a male :tongue:).

I obtained the sample when he jettisoned it but do have a question for you biology majors, "What orifice does it come from?"
 

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DWhatley

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Mantle Petting

Since Sistrurus is consistently coming out to visit with me every night, I got bold tonight and tried to gently stroke his mantle. I never attempted this with Trapper but have wondered about the pygmies reaction since several of the bimacs have enjoyed head scratching. At first he kind of scrunched down into the LR (no ink and no disappearing though), then gently pushed my finger away but eventually, he let me "pet" him behind the eyes. He is so small that it was hard to be sure I was actually touching him but I could see his eyes bob with my finger stroke. The second time he was not resistent and seem to get that catatonic look that an iguana has when you stroke it (sort of like rubbing an aligator's stomach - or so they say). I am sure it was the lighting but I swear his eyes glazed over (almost demonic looking). The third time he did not go quite so limp but showed no objection to the attention.

Just too cool for a Merc!
 

DWhatley

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Miss Broody, Hide'nSeek and Mia

I finally gave names to the three in the 45 gallon tank, inspired by the fact that at 4:00 the morning I finally caught site of Mia (Missing in aquarium) :shock:
 

DWhatley

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Sistrurus and Medusa

Well, I was wrong about Medusa brooding. This past weekend she moved out from the LR and into one of the barnacles. She tried one for a day but has stayed in her second choice since Sunday (2 days so far). She keeps a door handy (generally by capturing a passing snail - she does not eat or kill it). She chose to remain solitary in one of the original shell clusters that was in her breeder net over the more luxurious grouping in the front that Sistrurus uses on a part time basis. I have not seen her venture out of her den but she will still accept a dead shrimp as well as filter feeding Cyclop-eeze.

Prior to this weekend, I have seen Sistrurus make mad dashes out of the LR, into the open and then quickly back, occassionally bumping his mantle on the tank outer wall. I was concerned that this might be old age confusion but have decided it was only timid exploration. He now knows his tank and will wonder in and out of the LR as well as up and down the darker side tank wall (one side faces a refugium with a 24/7 light - lower than their tank but still providing some ambient and keep the keeper from tripping over things). Some nights he will stay out and play (come in and out of view for maybe half an hour) but other nights he retires to his most used den after dinner. I think he sleeps, strolls, sleeps and strolls in spurts but I have not yet watched an entire night - harder to do now that I have a full time job :roll:). He will not take live or dead food from my hand any more and the shrimp and crab population appear to be stable. He may be eating pods as I know there have been some nice sized ones in the tank and I have seen him using his arms as if feeling through the LR. He swats away the live shrimp when they come near but will still gently move the serpent arm when it searches for food in his area (which is any time I am feeding - greedy fella and will reach up and inspect my fingers for food).

I tried a mirror last night and he moved over to the section that would allow him to see his reflection and sat on the wall for quite awhile (after I left the room). I am not sure that the mirror was the catalyst though and I moved it to a section (hex tank) that is not normal form him to tank crawl. So far, I still have not seen him next to it but I will check again later tonight.

Miss Broody, HideNSeek, Mia
Miss Broody does not seem to leave her birth barnacle at all but will filter feed at night and is usually in position when I go to the tank. HideNSeek changes dens but has started to come to the barnacles sometime around feeding time (I don't see him/her go into a shell but will see him/her after I have put Cyclop-eeze in the tank, leave and then return. Mia has been hiding again for two days but I don't think anything is amiss. The shrimp population in this tank also seems to remain stable. I can't tell about the hermits and snails but the small fiddler crabs seem to disappear (hard to know for sure). I did see one shrimp eating hermit remains but this could be from shedding and not octo feeding.

I saw occassional inking if I frightened one of the octos while they were exploring their breeder net. None of the five has inked in the larger envrionment. It is important to move slowly or even Sistrurus will duck into a den and darken but the fear quickly passes.

My initial concern that at 6 months and half the size of Trapper, the baby octos were already close to the end of their life span is diminshed since Medusa was not yet brooding and Sistrurus's actions have other explanations (the curled up arm waving is now a definite feeding posture but he is the only one that exhibits this in a predictable manner). Their minimal eating habits are still a concern (I know they all eat but I would expect more appetite) but I am comfortable I won't see them out walking in daylight anytime soon.
 

Tintenfisch

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dwhatley;101209 said:
I obtained the sample when he jettisoned it but do have a question for you biology majors, "What orifice does it come from?"

The digestive tract in squid and octopus is U-shaped... food goes in the beak, travels down the esophagus to the stomach and ceca at the end of the mantle, then comes back through the intestine (under the ink-sac), and ends at the anus, near the inside of the funnel. Once excreted from the intestine, the feces is generally blown out the funnel. Yummy. :roll:

There is also a basic diagram of the whole digestive system here.
 

DWhatley

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Tintenfisch,
Thanks! The diagram also explains the more opaque spot at the tip of the mantle even on a male. Somewhere I saw that the overies were here but was sure Sistrurus was male so know that the stomach is positioned at the tip give me a better understanding of what I am seeing.
 

DWhatley

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More behavior notes

Miss Broody (the possible female that lives in mom's brooding den) has gotten somewhat agressive in the last two days. She will now accept live crabs from my fingers BUT she also wants the fingers :yinyang:. First she secures the crab while holding onto my finger then proceeds to tug with all her strength, lifting the entire cluster of barnacles unless I use a free finger to keep them in place. She will let the crab move from arm to arm but never lets it escape while she pulls herself out of the den with determination. She continues the crab shuffle and hand attack for several minutes. I have not felt anything like a bite (in the past I could feel a numbness from the suction, not the actual beak) but she is quite insistent that my fingers belong in her den.

HideNSeek was a major concern last night and I feared I may have lost one to predation (noting Miss Broody's agressiveness and the fact that he/she will share the barnacle condo at feeding time). He/she was breathing but not moving in the front corner (hex tank) and did not react to finger movement outside the tank (no ambient light). Fearing the worst, I attempted netting but could not get the net under him. Next I dislocated (figuratively) my shoulder and reached over the canopy and to the bottom of the tank to attempt a rescue/quarantine. I discovered that the net had been blocked by a piece of coral and that HideNSeek had actually made a den by burying in the sand, the piece of coral was a door. Once disturbed, he turned indignant brown and crawled to his normal feeding chamber and also accepted a crab. I have yet to read of another merc burying like this but it might explain some of the disappearances. I wish I had not disturbed the den now, as it was a great viewing spot.

Mia is MIA and has been unseen for 3 days. I don't worry about him since he rarely comes over to feed by hand (there is a banquet live in the tank and hand feeding is my choice).

Sistrurus remains consistent and comes completely out of his latest den once the lights are out and someone sits in a chair in front of the tank. After feeding he will often wonder the tank, play a little I spy over the live rock or climb up and "slide" down the tank wall in what seems to be entertainment (he will touch but ignore the floating "toy" in the tank).

I did get an unexpected reaction to the new mirror location. He is very calm as long at the light are off in the room and no one makes any sudden movements in front of his tank. I have knocked the bubble reducer net in the tank almost daily (I finally altered it to minimize this problem) and he does not even flinch when I stick my hand in the tank to retrieve the contraption but last week he turned white, took on a torpedo shape, dashed to the other side of the tank and inked. It took me a couple of hours to realize that he was on the mirror side of the tank when I put my hand in :oops: Fortunately, a few minutes later he was peeking back over the LR to see what was going on.

I am worried that all he is eating is the Cyclop-eeze (at least all I see him eat and I have not seen any obvious diminishing of the live shrimp, snails or hermits). I continue to try other foods (including thawed frozen clam) but he rejects it and ran away from the live crab offering.

Medusa continues to eat one shore shrimp and Cyclop-eeze from her barnacle den. I have not seen her leave this den (her second) since moving in but I do see more than just snake arms now.
 

Nancy

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Thank you so much, D, for taking the time to document the lives of these little octopuses! I always enjoy reading about them. You've proved that even little noctunal mercatoris can be facinating for the right person!

I'd like a better descripton of the Cyclop-eeze you feed them. I have some in the form of leathery flakes which I used to add to a blender mix for gorgonians. Did you say yours was frozen? And is it whole little shrimps?

And what do you mean when you say they "filter feed"?

Nancy
 

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