A so-described “ghostly” cephalopod put its deep-sea acrobatics on full display this week after it was captured by researchers in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in what the team says is a previously unexplored area. The creature is part of a genus known as Grimpoteuthis and is sometimes referred to as a dumbo octopus on account of its fins that look similar to those of Disney’s iconic elephant.
The footage comes courtesy scientists aboard the E/V Nautilus, who beginning this week are in the area studying the underwater ecosystem around Davidson Seamount—a massive underwater mountain with coral forests that look like something straight out of Dr. Seuss book—at depths of up to 12,000 feet. The dumbo octopus was captured Tuesday by the team’s remote operated vehicles (ROVs) during its around-the-clock live feed of its exploration of the mountain’s diverse marine life.
Chad King, the chief scientist on the vessel, told Earther the high-quality footage can be useful not only to scientists who want to identify other species of Grimpoteuthis, but hopefully by adding to the library of data from which experts can pull to study things like octopus behavior.
“It’s not a rare species, but it’s rare to come across one,” he said of the octopus, which researchers said measured about two feet in length. “The chances are low because we’re in the deep ocean in one little spot.”
Located off the coast of Central California, the federally protected Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary expanded in 2008 to include the dreamy seamount were this dumbo octopus was observed after researchers realized the need to protect it from exploitation. For example, fishing is prohibited beyond 3,000 feet, while the underwater mountain’s summit starts below 4,000 feet.
In the footage of yesterday’s star attraction, researchers can be heard enthusiastically commentating the adorable mollusk, with a researcher at one point exclaiming, “You’re gonna be famous!” (This is almost certainly true.)
While they may be cute as a button, they’re also not to be messed with. Nicholas Higgs, Deputy Director of the Plymouth University Marine Institute, told Gizmodo last year that these little guys “envelop their prey within their webbed arms to make a balloon around them, and then consume them.”
Nature is both adorable and metal as hell.