The Disney Inspired Cephalopod

Courtesy of Ocean Explorer

Of all the creatures seen by NOAA's Okeanos Explorer and those of us onshore, the Dumbo Octopus doubtlessly wins the award of the most adorable!

Courtesy of E/V Nautilus

My first encounter with the Dumbo Octopus was in 2013 from the footage taken by the E/V Nautilus in the Gulf. The species was small, orange, and typically translucent. We watched in amazement as it splayed its webbed tentacles wide and floated with the current in the view of the ROV Hercules' camera. Then our amazement turned to amusement as the ROV pilot endeavored to capture one of these animals with one of the Hercules' mechanized arms .

In contrast, the Okeanos earlier expedition this year exposed us to a surprisingly different species. The following is a line up of stills from the Okeanos' live footage showing a blue-colored Dumbo Octopus, first on the ocean bottom and then casually migrating into the water column. Apparently, this gentle creature was undaunted by the ROV's enormity unlike many crabs.

Courtesy of Ocean Explorer

Courtesy of Ocean Explorer

Courtesy of Ocean Explorer

Courtesy of Ocean Explorer

Though its oblong body may suggest otherwise, this cephalopod is in fact of the octopus family, more specifically, an umbrella octopus. Like all octopus, Dumbo Octopus have a mantle, siphon, eight tentacles, and a beak for eating, among other things. But there are some surprising elements to these creatures that other octopus do not share. For instance, like the squid, some species of this octopus have a shell made of chitin within its mantle. Exceptions to this may be the Flapjack Devilfish, which is also an umbrella octopus resembling something of a jelly.

Another difference is the presence of its characteristic fins. Visually similar to Dumbo's big ears in the Disney cartoon, this octopus uses its fins to maneuver throughout the water column, as well as a siphon, staying fairly near the bottom but remaining in between enough to categorize it as benthopelagic. It happens to be the deepest dwelling octopus known to man, reaching as far as 7,000 meters.

As I mentioned before, there are a variety of species. Some, like the orange one in the pictures above, are bright and quite translucent, a quality many deep-sea dwellers share, while the blue-white species shows very little translucency.

What was particularly interesting was the distinctness in behavior just between these two species. The orange octopus floated into view and quickly spread its tentacles wide and remained in this position until an attempt was made to capture it.

The blue-white species on the other hand sucked its tentacles in close to its body and proceeded to observe its intruders in what the explorers themselves found extraordinarily peculiar.

The fact that this animal is so cute is surprising. Most creatures at such depths are not seen nor exposed to light and consequently have garish features. Why God decided to create one so unlike its contemporaries is beyond me, but then again, that's not too unusual. God's ways are often a mystery to man!

Thanks for reading! Be sure to leave me a comment telling me what you think!

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