An organism’s behavior can be described as altruistic if that behavior benefits other organisms at a cost to itself in terms of reproductive fitness. This type of behavior has been commonly observed in the natural world, especially amongst species with a complex social structure.
A great example of an altruistic behavior can be seen in the giant octopus. The female giant octopus makes the ultimate sacrifice to ensure her young make it into the world. After mating she will carry the sperm in her until she is ready to release her eggs. As she releases her eggs they are fertilized by the stored sperm (Kalupa, 2012). The mother carefully lines the inside of a meticulously chosen den with her eggs where they will remain for 6 to 7 months until they hatch. During this 6 to 7 month time span the mother is constantly touching and aerating the eggs to keep them clean and healthy (Kalupa, 2012). During this time she will not eat or even leave the den. Often lesions form on her body which can lead to infection. Once the eggs hatch the mother dies quickly after (Kalupa, 2012).
The video shows a mother octopus tending to her eggs and gently blowing her newly hatched babies out of the den and into the world. She has given her all to ensure the eggs hatched. The hatching lasted about a week and then the mother died.
Kalupa, J. (2012). Creating pacific octopuses. Retrieved from: http://bioweb.uwlax.edu/bio203/s2012/kalupa_juli/reproduction.htm
Okasha, S. (2013). Biological altruism. Retrieved from: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2013/entries/altruism-biological/>