A Ghostlike New Octopus Discovered by NOAA

Mar 14, 2016

Credit oceanexplorer.noaa.gov

A new species of octopus has been discovered in deep waters further up the Hawaiian chain.

Researchers aboard the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration ship Okeanos discovered the creature at a depth of 4,000 meters.  Scientists were studying a connection between Necker Island and its ridge when they came upon the animal sitting on a flat rock.

Deep-sea octopods are easily separated into two distinct groups: (1) the cirrate, or finned, octopods (also known as “dumbo” octopods), characterized by fins on the sides of their bodies and fingerlike cirri associated with the suckers on their arms and (2) incirrate octopods, which lack both fins and cirri and are similar in appearance to common shallow-water Octopus.

The octopod imaged in detail on this first dive was a member of the second group, the incirrates. A distinctive characteristic was that the suckers were in one, rather than two, series on each arm. This animal was particularly unusual because it lacked the pigment cells, called chromatophores, typical of most cephalopods, and it did not seem very muscular.

It lacked any pigment, creating a ghostly white appearance leading some to liken it to Casper the Friendly Ghost, and observers say it was only a few inches wide, and scurried away from the camera after a few moments.  Daniel Wagner is the lead biologist on board the Okeanos.  He says it’s the deepest dwelling octopus that’s been discovered so far. 

 Dives from the Okeanos can be streamed at NOAA’s website.