Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Understanding octopus growth: patterns, variability and physiology

J. M. Semmens A G , G. T. Pecl A , R. Villanueva B , D. Jouffre C , I. Sobrino D , J. B. Wood E and P. R. Rigby F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Marine Research Laboratories, Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 49, Hobart, Tasmania 7001, Australia.

B Institut de Ciencies del Mar (CSIC), Passeig Maritim 37-49, E-08003 Barcelona, Spain.

C Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD), Centre de Recherche Halieutique Méditerranéenne et Tropicale, Avenue Jean Monnet, B.P. 171, 34203 Sète Cédex, France.

D Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Unidad de Cádiz, Apdo. 2609, 11006 Cadiz, Spain.

E The Bermuda Biological Station for Research, 17 Biological Lane, Ferry Reach, St. George’s GE 01, Bermuda.

F Graduate School of Fisheries Sciences, Hokkaido University, 3-1-1 Minato-cho, Hakodate 041-8611, Japan.

G Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 55(4) 367-377
Submitted: 7 October 2003  Accepted: 30 March 2004   Published: 22 June 2004


Octopuses are generally characterised by rapid non-asymptotic growth, with high individual variability. However, in situ octopus growth is not well understood. The lack of an ageing method has resulted in the majority of our understanding of octopus growth coming from laboratory studies. Despite not being applicable to cephalopods, Modal Progression Analysis (MPA) of length–frequency data is the most common method for examining in situ octopus growth. Recently, counting growth increments in beaks and vestigial shells, and quantifying lipofuscin in brain tissue, have all shown promise for the ageing octopus. Octopuses generally demonstrate two-phase growth in the laboratory, with physiological changes possibly associated with the switch between an initial rapid exponential phase and a slower power growth phase. Temperature and food ration and quality are key factors influencing the initial growth phase. Temperature, however, does not appear to affect the second phase in any consistent way, perhaps because maturity stage can influence the growth response. There may be basic differences in the mechanisms of octopus muscle growth compared with that of other cephalopods. Furthermore, higher relative maintenance energy expenditure, along with the low energy content of their prey, may account for the relatively slow growth of deep-sea octopuses compared to littoral species.

Extra keywords: ageing, cephalopod, growth, growth modelling, octopus.


Thanks to T. Borges, University of Algarve, who contributed to the initial discussions of octopus growth and the structure of this review at the Cephalopod Growth Workshop in Thailand, February 2003. The Ian Potter Foundation and The Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute, University of Tasmania provided funding for JMS and GTP to attend the Workshop in Thailand. Funding to JMS to study octopus growth comes from an Australian Research Committee, Linkage grant and Postdoctoral Fellowship (C00107233). Funding to RV was provided by the Centre de Referència de Recerca i Desenvolupament en Aqüicultura, CIRIT, Generalitat de Catalunya; the Planes Nacionales JACUMAR, Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación, Spain; and by the Commission of the European Communities within the framework of the EU Concerted Action CEPHSTOCK (QLRT-2001–00962).


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