Hundreds of eggs are expected to hatch over the next few weeks at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, after nearly a year of incubation. 

Gilligan, a giant Pacific octopus, began laying her eggs last May. About two weeks ago, tiny cephalopods were spotted floating around her tank. 

 
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Aquarium Curator, Richard Hocking, says all of the eggs are expected to hatch by the end of May. 

Microscope image of eggs two weeks before hatching. (Credit: Alaska SeaLife Center)

The babies are pea-sized-- about a quarter-inch-long-- and already resemble their parents; they hatch with all eight arms, sucker disks and well-developed eyes. 

As the babies hatch and move to the surface, aquarium staff is gradually transporting them to a rearing tank where they will float and eat zooplankton. 

The SeaLife Center says hatching and successfully rearing giant Pacific octopuses is extremely rare, and there's only been one documented case of successful rearing to adulthood, and that was at the Seattle Aquarium back in the '80s. 

In the wild, the SeaLife Center says, the survival rate of hatchlings is only 1 percent. In an aquarium, the odds of survival remain low, as the hatchlings are extremely delicate and have complex nutritional needs. 

Giant Pacific octopus only seek out a mate in the last three- to six-years of their lifespan. The male passes a spermatophore into the female's mantle during mating, then, the female has up to six months to use it to fertilize her eggs. Between 20,000 and 80,000 eggs are laid long, braided strands, the SeaLife Center says, which look like white, tear-shaped grape clusters. It can take up to a month for the female to lay all the eggs. 

Gilligan and her hatchlings will be on display at the SeaLife Center's Octopus Grotto exhibit. 

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