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Terrance the octopus came to live with a family. Then she laid dozens of eggs

A two-spot octopus, like the type an Oklahoma family brought home as a pet.
Angelina Komatovich
A two-spot octopus, like the type an Oklahoma family brought home as a pet.

It's not all that unusual to see octopus on a restaurant menu. But an octopus as a family pet?

Cameron Clifford of Edmond, Okla. says his 9-year-old son Cal is a huge fan of the eight-legged creatures.

"One of the funny things, the misconceptions I think that people assume, is that this was kind of like a flavor of the week for my son, you know, and we're kind of just these parents that will placate him with any material thing," Clifford told NPR. "But he's a real bright kid and he has absolutely loved octopuses since he was, like, 2 years old."

So Clifford decided to investigate, and learned that it was possible to order an octopus from the local aquarium store.

When Cal came home from school to find all of the equipment it would take to house a pet octopus, he was completely overcome. Clifford filmed the response and posted it to TikTok, starting a journey the family would continue to document.

After days of calibrating the water in an enormous tank to be sure it could support a cephalopod, the two-spot octopus they named Terrance arrived.

Angelina Komatovich is a marine biologist at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, Calif., who has taken care of octopuses professionally.

"When I first heard of Terrance the octopus, I was actually very surprised to find out that there was a two-spot octopus living all the way across the country in Oklahoma," she told NPR. "But in that aquarium, they had everything that they needed. They had the cold water. They had a nice sized aquarium for this octopus to live in. But it was really cool to see that this octopus was sourced from a reputable place and being very well taken care of."

Though the Clifford family was as prepared as possible to welcome Terrance, there was one thing they missed. It turns out Terrance was pregnant. And she laid dozens of eggs.

Terrance's family has grown considerably.
/ Cameron Clifford
/
Cameron Clifford
Terrance's family has grown considerably.

Now Clifford and Cal, with help from a friend, are taking care of more than 20 tiny octopus babies, along with Terrance. They need around-the-clock care, and even then, Komatovich says, few are likely to survive.

"Only one or two of these would be expected to live into adulthood in an aquarium setting under perfect conditions," she said. "But that's a lot of octopuses for one family to take care of."

Terrance is doing well after launching her many offspring, but the Clifford family isn't taking that for granted. Once a two-spot octopus lays her eggs, she typically won't live much longer.

The jury is still out on whether one of Terrance's babies will become a permanent member of the Clifford household.

But come what may, Komatovich believes Cal has a bright future ahead of him.

"I definitely see a future marine biologist right there. And it's so exciting to see someone so young interested in cephalopods," she said.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Jordan-Marie Smith
Jordan-Marie Smith is a producer with NPR's All Things Considered.
Sarah Handel