Growth and age of the midget octopus, Octopus huttoni

  • Erica M. Y. DonlonEmail author
  • Erin L. Damsteegt
  • Jean McKinnon
  • Fiona A. Higgins
  • Miles D. Lamare


The midget octopus Octopus huttoni is an important link between trophic levels as a food source and a predator, but little is known about its life history or growth. This is the first study to age and quantify growth in O. huttoni from three populations in Southern New Zealand, namely Foveaux Strait, Otago Harbour, and the Otago continental shelf. Morphometries were measured for 121 individuals, ages were estimated for 109 individuals using beak and stylet increment analysis, and lipofuscin quantity was analysed for 106 individuals. Assuming that one increment equals 1 day, beaks provided the highest age estimate (up to 250 days), but are suspected to be an underestimate (40–70 days) because increments were not found on laboratory-reared paralarval beaks, suggesting that the first increment may form after settlement. Daily growth rings in stylets were validated by tetracycline marking, but low estimates of age were attributed to poor visualisation of the stylet nucleus. The relationships between lipofuscin volume ratio and age or size of the individual were not significant, lipofuscin density was low, and individual variation was high. Results indicated that this species displays indeterminate growth until death, with a maximum mantle length of 50–60 mm at an age of 200–250 days. Further, individuals from Foveaux Strait were smaller and younger than those found in the Otago Harbour, supporting an hypothesis of an ontogenetic migration onshore.


New Zealand Size at age Growth estimates Lipofuscin Octopus huttoni 



The authors would like to thank Reuben Pooley and Dave Wilson (Department of Marine Science) for building and setting up tanks, Brent Pooley (Department of Geology) for help in preparing stylet samples, and everyone who helped collect octopus including Peter Batson and Sam Heenan (Department of Marine Science). We would further like to acknowledge Matthew Downes (Department of Zoology) for technical histological support and the technicians in the Histology lab (Department of Anatomy) for staining optic lobe samples. We are also thankful for Stephen Wing and Leonardo Durante (Department of Marine Science) for providing statistical help.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Human and animal rights statement

Approval to collect, keep, manipulate, and euthanise O. huttoni for the duration of this project was obtained from the University of Otago Animal Ethics Committee. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

10452_2019_9719_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (748 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 747 kb)


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Marine ScienceUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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