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[Octopus]: Varys, our brooding O. mercatoris

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Jan 18, 2008
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Quick update on Varys: our momma merc is still in the den. She does not come out and she rejects food. She may be eating pods but we haven't seen it.

Now the fun part: Update on Varys' kids....

We have 8 survivors! They are hunting and eating fine, and have started some entertaining behaviors.

One we like to call "Skimmer" .... he hangs at the water surface like an upside-down water strider. It's happened twice but we weren't fast enough with the camera the second time. (The first time we were too dumbstruck to do anything but stare with puzzled intensity and mouths agape). He splays his arms out and rides the current around the tank several times using the surface tension. Any ideas what he's doing? He's healthy and vigorous and knows how to hunt. Might be just something to do for fun and entertainment....

We had to fish another out of the sump. We watched the little booger ooze through the fiberglass window screen that we had siliconed over the slots that allow water flow into the back chambers of the Biocube. (It worked for Varys, but the baby did indeed prove that anything they can get the beak through, they can get the whole body through!) This guy was probably up there because the amphipods sometimes collect up there. Couldn't get him to go back through- instead the little turd went over the next chamber and down into the bioballs. :banghead: All is well, but it took removing bioballs one by one and inspecting the interior of each bioball until FINALLY finding the one he was hanging out in. Then we put the bioball into the main tank so he could come out on his own.

They do scare each other when one tries to enter a shell already occupied by a sibling. The occupant will come out with arms waving, and somebody will ink. Not sure which one inks. They're fun to watch when they're stalking and pouncing gamma-pods. They're not very talented but they do occasionally score.

It's 8pm here, and we turned out the light 10 or 15 minutes ago. Seven babies are already out. Just recieved 500 new live mysids... Paul Sachs has been great about getting them out the door and to us quickly. Time to feed these kids.

Here's a photo of one baby hanging out on some red macroalgae. We think the picture shows a little bit of attidude. They're a lot of fun. :smile:
 

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DWhatley

Kraken
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The one hanging upside down may be eating stuff at the top of the water. Sisturus and to a lesser exent Medusa come to the surface and flop upside down (not swimming though) at feeding time. Since I feed Cyclop-eeze every night in addition to shrimp or crab every other night, I am sure that they are catching the Cyclop-eeze with their suckers.

Your little ones are much more entertaining than mine were at this age but mine were in much smaller quarters until they were 5 months old. My one remaining captive bred almost never comes out of her shell except to change to a larger shell. I worry that she is not eating enough but she continues to survive and has changed up to her third shell this week.
 
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After stuffing themselves on live mysids the previous night, the babies barely even showed themselves last night. Two of them did start closing the entrances to their shells with pieces of gravel though. Not surprisingly, these two shells are the same ones where the repeated "intrusions" have happened... kinda like putting a NO VACANCY sign on the doorknob. :lol: We've now seen as many as ten of the little squirts at one time!
 

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Thanks monty. It's kinda interesting that they don't seem to be bothered by repeated flashes (it's a pain to get it to illuminate the subject on a closeup like that), and yet, the little green light on the camera seems to send them scurrying!
 
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Farewell Varys

We lost Varys today... :cry:

3 months after we got her, and 1 month after her eggs began hatching. She had been refusing food ever since her eggs started hatching and as far as we know, never came out of her den after she entered it to start brooding... until today.

Varys came out this afternoon with the lights on and I spent an hour or so petting and photographing her. She was so weak and had lost much of her color. We knew this was coming, but it seemed so sudden because she hasn't been out and feeding the way D's mercs have been doing as they get older.

She is survived by 10 or so hatchlings that are now about 10 days old and eating well.
 

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Nancy

Titanites
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RIP Varys. :angelpus:

Very nice pic of her and glad you were able to spend time with her on her last day.

Good luck with the little ones!

Nancy
 

DWhatley

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Greg,
Thanks for posting the last day picture as I think it helps to collect info on aging and pictures show so much that you might miss when just looking. One of the things I notice that I had seen but not thought was something that may be common is the almost squarish shape to the mantle. If you look a the end of Trapper's thread you will see a picture of her in her last days and the mantle is the same. Also, the eyes seem cloudy and I am noticing this in one of Sisty's as well but I don't remember if this was true with Trap. Varys shows much more color than Trapper did but she survived almost 12 weeks after the hatching (I think 4-5 weeks may be normal for the Mercs second guessing from the few that have been documented here). I feel comfortable in saying that whether or not they eat is a major determination on life extension. I spiked Trapper's shrimp with a small amout of antibiotic as an infection preventative. Not having a control animal, I don't know if there was any positive effect. None of mine have ever shown external infection but the cloudy eye may be a sign of something internal. I have not given antibiotics to the males but may consider it soon. The weakness was also very evident with Trapper and she could barely climb the tank wall. It appeared that she just fell off when I found her a couple of hours after feeding time.

Miss Broody was very young when she produced eggs. After the hatching she did not look weak or have problems coloring and I had high hopes she would live a lot longer . Unfortunately, with the second mating she left her tank front den and simply disappeared. I still think she was hiding up in the crevice where I noticed the oddly placed shell but I never saw an arm come looking for food and I believe she starved. The shell shifted at about 4 weeks and dropped completely after about 8 with no sign of what held it in place.

MIA (male) just disappeared without any obvious symptoms. Sisty is very white and only eating Cyclop-eeze most of the time (I think he ate a shrimp tonight for the first time in over a week, he definiately took it but continued to hold my fingers so I am not sure if he ate it or it just fell into the shell he was sitting in). Medusa still has good color but is fisty and stays angry red a good bit of the time and HideNSeek is somewhere in between (but has started to show up again for nightly feedings).

I am sorry that Varys did not stay out for a few days at least (here again Trapper was a little unusual because her final walk lasted almost 2 weeks in stead of the more typical 1 day and Sisty has gone back to coming out later rather than staying out in the day light). Trapper would sit on my hand as long as I could keep my arm in the water (I think the soft skin texture had something to do with her contentment) and no longer had any kind of fear. Somehow they almost seem like little puppies at this stage but it makes their passing all the harder.

I wish more of my captive bred had survived as it would have been worth the risks to try swapping a couple but I only have the two left from this line. I had thought about trying to get another adult female but, with luck, I will be attempting a couple of JoeFish's Briarius next month.
 
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About a week ago, we moved Varys into the 20 gallon tank that was originally intended to be her home before she laid eggs in the other tank. We knew the end was coming and didn't want to risk it happening while we were away and possibly causing water quality issues for the babies. I was very fortunate that this was spring break so I was at home instead of teaching.

Here's a clip of my first (and only) chance for real finger-to-tentacle contact with Varys. When I first saw her sitting out, I put my hand in and she grabbed me. She then crawled about halfway onto my hand before I got nervous and withdrew it. I wasn't sure how much I trusted her since we hadn't played that game before. Now I'm sorry I didn't let her climb on...

Early yesterday, while she was still inside her new barnacle home, the shore shrimp in the tank would come poking around and she would swat them away... she even caught one and pulled it inside, but then let it go. Later, while I was petting her, I was horrified when I realized that one of them was actually eating the tip of her arm! I quickly removed them from the tank, but by that point she was fading fast.

She definitely had cloudy eyes and you can see how heavily she was breathing and how non-responsive she was in the video. I had hoped she would last quite a bit longer since she seemed to eat some while brooding... but maybe she was older than Trapper was when she started?

I don't think we mentioned it before, but Mr. George R.R. Martin actually posted the pic we sent him on his fan pages. He's a funny guy... he was very quick to point out that his character Varys is nicknamed "The Spider", not "The Octopus"... Well, at least we had the correct number of legs! I expect we will have to start naming the babies after Theon and the Greyjoy clan whose symbol is a kraken. (And if Mr. Martin happens to read this, we're still waiting for that next book! :wink:)

Varys was definitely a great, first cephalopod experience and again, our thanks to you D and everyone else who helped us and Varys through it!

R.I.P. Varys
3/19/08
 

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