Pitter patter of tiny tentacles tinged with sadness at Hunstanton

They're in the tank there - somewhere. They're calling it a rare and magical event up on the coast, but you need eyes like a hawk to see it.

For at Hunstanton Sealife Sanctuary, a lesser octopus called Roland, which staff always believed to be male, has turned out to be the opposite by giving birth.

Such events are almost as rare as octopuses which can predict football scores in the aquatic scheme of things.

One thing which might explain this is that the female of the eight-legged species usually dies soon after hearing the pitter patter of tiny tentacles.

Displays supervisor Kieran Copeland said the creatures were literally so intent on looking after their offspring that they starve themselves to death.

'A mother octopus protects and nurses her eggs so diligently that she neglects to feed herself,' he said.

'Rarely can a female octopus be persuaded to feed even after the eggs have hatched. It's just nature's way unfortunately.

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'She makes the ultimate sacrifice in the interests of the survival of her species.'

From the outset, mother octopus's job isn't made any easier by the diminutive size of her offspring. When born, the babies are around 1mm long - and small enough to fit through the proverbial eye of a needle.

Octo-kittens at Hunstanton have been transferred to a special column tank to which staff have affixed magnifying glasses so visitors can get a better look at them.

And as the happy day is tinged with sadness, with Roland looking thinner by the day, aquarium staff admit the young's chances of survival are also slim.

'Sadly nobody has yet managed to successfully rear octopus fry to maturity,' said Mr Copeland. 'But we're going to do our level best and see if we can be the first.'