Scientists spotted a rare “Dumbo” octopus over 5,500 feet deep in the waters off the Hawaiian islands.
The creature, named after the Disney cartoon for the large pair of flapping fins sprouting from its head, was spotted on a camera feed aboard the ROV Atalanta as it trawled the PapahÄnaumokuÄkea Marine National Monument northwest of Hawai’i.
“I’m glad we got to see a live one,” researchers can be heard saying on a video feed of the Dumbo, shared last week as part of the NOAA and Ocean Exploration Cooperative expedition.
“Oh the flappy, flappy ears,” another says excitedly.
Dumbos are the deepest known group of octopuses, inhabiting the sea floor at depths of up to 13,000 feet.
The team says that it has continued to spot Dumbos in the area.
In footage shared on Wednesday, another of the mysterious creatures can be seen nestled on the sea floor.
“There’s that beach ball we’ve been looking for,” one researcher jokes.
“PapahÄnaumokuÄkea Marine National Monument seems to be home to some of the most beautiful dumbo octopuses in the world!” researchers wrote in an adjoining note on the footage.
“Our Corps of Exploration spotted this one over 1,600 meters deep while exploring Woollard Seamount, roughly 40 nautical miles north of HÅlanikÅ« (Kure Atoll) during our NA154 expedition. Enjoy up-close views of its textured and somewhat translucent skin while making ‘eye contact’ with this cirrate cephalopod.”
Little is known about the 17 species considered Dumbo octopuses, whose scientific name is Grimpoteuthis spp.
“Deep-water creatures, the Grimpoteuthis appear to have adapted to the intense pressure and cold temperatures of the deep ocean by forgoing propulsion and growing mantle fins,” according to the Aquarium of the Pacific. “Their reproduction schedule appears to be ongoing, so they out-pace more shallow-water octopus species.”
They have been found in waters ranging from New Zealand to California’s Monterey Bay to Papua New Guinea.
They can range in size from under a foot to over 6 feet long, according to the aquarium, and lack an ink sac like other octopus species.
The octopuses are foraging predators, who live so deeply they are unlikely to be affected by human activity on a day-to-day basis but can be eaten by tuna, sharks, dolphins, and other marine mammals.
“Dumbo octopuses are naturally rare, and the deep sea is enormous, so these species have specialized behaviors to increase the likelihood that they can successfully reproduce anytime that they find a mate,” according to the conservation organisation Oceana.
“Females apparently always carry eggs in different stages of development, and they are able to store sperm for long periods of time after mating with a male. Using these advantages, female dumbo octopuses can transfer sperm to their most developed eggs any time the environmental conditions are right for reproducing.”