The mother octopus never moved from her spot during that entire time. She did not even feed or show interest in food, such as small crabs and shrimp, which would float by every so often.
She was solely focused on watching over her eggs and bathing the eggs in fresh, oxygenated seawater to keep them from being covered with silt or debris.
Video: Octopus Mimics Flounder
As the years passed, her translucent eggs grew larger and the researchers could see young octopuses developing inside. Over the same period, the female gradually lost weight and her already damaged skin became loose and pale.
The last time the researchers saw the brooding octopus was in September 2011. When they returned one month later, they found that the female was gone. As they wrote, "the rock face she had occupied held the tattered remnants of empty egg capsules." Based on these remains, they speculate that she was brooding 160 eggs!
Robison and his colleagues explained that the eggs develop more slowly in cold temperatures. The site is usually about 37 degrees Fahrenheit. Young of this species also emerge from the eggs as fully formed miniature adults.